Is the V for U?

By: Ryan Lingg

As a Freshman at Western Washington University(WWU), located in Bellingham, WA, I am confronted with the issue of looking for good places to grab some food on my campus. For students all over the country at universities are all confronted with the same question once arriving at a university, where is the best place to grab a bite to eat on campus?

Soon after arriving at WWU, I was confronted by the same question. I had the main cafeteria that was located right next to where I lived but one day I grew tired of the same old boring cafeteria food and wanted something more. I was looking for place to get some good food near by and with my busy schedule I don’t always have enough time to sit down. I had heard that my school union building has a dining area that with some alternative food choices to the cafeteria. It was only a short walk away. So I decided to check it out one day and have since become a regular to the dining area.

WWU Union Building (VU)

Entering the Viking Union (VU) dining area, the first thing that you notice is the smell of food that permeates through out the building. The smell of panda express and subway fill the entire building with the delicious smell of Chinese food and toasted sandwiches almost as if you can taste it. The light shines in from the glass walls that are to the left and right of you and fills the entrance area. The sounds of the panda express chefs hitting the pans together, the beeping of the toasters at subway, and the noise of the cash register echo around through out the rooms. People are sitting at the tables, eating their food or trying to get some of their work done, and someone is even reading. Others have come here with their friends and are engaged in deep conversation, as if they are in a world of their own. Walking forward you start to gain a view of the panda express and subway that are kind of hidden behind a wall to the left past the main entrance area. It is what you would expect from a College Union building. But what is it that makes students all over the country drawn to certain places to get food rather than other restaurants?

VU Main Entryway

The people I see there are always friendly and the food is always good. Panda Express and Subway, along with the little food mart and Starbucks, offer a variety of options for the people who come there to get something to drink or eat. Most of the students who come to the VU for food are in a hurry and looking for an option to get some food and be able to take it somewhere else, which is probably the case for other universities too. The stores there do a great job at offering food to students in ways that they can take it with them. The seating area is large and spread enough apart that students have plenty of room to sit with friends if they plan on eating their food there too. And the general atmosphere offers a great place to talk with friends while eating. But the question still stands of what makes this area so appealing to these students?

I met a student at the VU named James who talked about how “the quality of the food from subway or panda express is just consistently better than the food that is served at the cafeteria”. And from personal experience I can reinforce this claim and most students and alumni from other universities would probably agree. The quality of the food from fast food places are better than most options that I have seen being served at the cafeteria. The food from companies is usually made fresh daily and made custom for what you want, unlike the cafeteria where you are stuck with what they serve you. The accessibility of food at any time during the day at union buildings is also another great reason for students to go there. My roommate who has lunch free every day always tells me how terrible the pickings are when he goes to the cafeteria during the late lunch hours. He comments on the “lack of choices” and how “if you don’t want a sandwich there aren’t any other options”. Which has led him to go to the VU for the higher quality sandwiches or Panda Express. And also on the weekends the VU can become the only source of food on the north side of campus due to the hours that the cafeteria is open. Accessibility is defiantly a reason why students search for other choices than the cafeteria at universities all over the country.

Panda Express and Subway at WWU

My union building has become my go to destination when it comes to getting food when I am in a rush and don’t have the time to sit down and eat my food for a while. Unfortunately, sometimes when I come through the doors I am greeted by a long line for both Panda Express and Subway that fills the dining area. This line has consistently been occurring at the VU around lunch time and can become a serious problem when I need to get my food and run. I have seen students have to leave the line and give up on getting their food simply because they have run out of all of their time trying to get through the line. This makes busy areas a risk for people who don’t have a lot of room to wait and crowding would turn away any student in a hurry.

The location of the dining area is also something that should be of discussion, for people living near the dining area, the location is perfect. At my union building I can look out the windows of the VU and see my dorm just a short walk away. Whether or not it is convenient is a huge factor in people’s decision to go to a destination. If it is far enough out of the way for people the option loses its practicality. The distance and time it would take for a person to cross a campus to get food makes the idea of getting food from there unrealistic. There are usually plenty of much closer options for food that would be better suited for people living on that side of campus. Just like how you wouldn’t walk past good restaurants to get to one thats farther away but equal in quality. Distance plays a huge factor in whether or not the option would be practical for getting a meal.

If you are a person on a campus who finds themselves on a college campus the near the union building I would highly recommend checking it out. It might be a great place for you to swing by and get some food. In the future if union buildings were to add an additional restaurants to the area that would offer a different style of food for students I think that this would not only improve the variety of food served there but also having another option would shorten the lines that form at the current restaurants. If in the future one of these restaurants were to be replaced by a restaurant that doesn’t serve on-the-go type food I think that the effectiveness of the VU to give students food on the go would greatly decline as the lines would extend much farther with only one option. Union buildings would be perfect for everyone on campus but the location of the building only makes it a practical option for people on north campus. If you are a ways away from the union building then I wouldn’t go too far out of your way to look to look for an option there. However, if you are in a rush to grab some food on the go and are near the union building, it will most likely be your best bet in providing you with some food that you can take with you and eat anywhere on campus or sit down and enjoy there.

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