There’s nothing hi-LAIR-ious about how much money I spend at the Lair. As an on-campus resident, eating from the Lair is non-negotiable. Whether I’m rushing between classes to grab a classic tuna sandwich or enjoying a leisurely rice bowl from Tres Habaneros, I always find a spare minute to be taken aback by the prices. A single meal can cost anywhere between $8 and $16, and over the past couple months, I really, truly wonder — am I being taken advantage of?
It’s no secret that college is pricey. According to the College Board, room and board fees alone at private, four-year universities have doubled since 1986. How much of this increase in price is the direct result of food supply companies finding the major demand in their monopoly-esque supply to students? Most of us have nowhere else to go, relying on C-stores and dining halls no matter what they charge. All I can do is shrug and pay the $8 for Ben and Jerry’s.
I asked the Unit Marketing Specialist for Sodexo at LMU, Joan Chang, specifically about the prices of easy items such as bottled drinks and fruits. She said that the prices are similar to what students would pay at major grocery stores. A simple Google search made me weary because Target lists an 11 oz. Simply Lemonade for $1.39, $1.60 lower than a Lion would pay in the Lair.
According to economic laws of supply and demand, the skyscraper-like demand of groceries, meals and ease that the Lair provides allows for the exorbitant prices we’re charged. But where does morality meet economics? Students at LMU do not have the time and transportation to make it to the grocery store on a regular basis. This forces us to begrudgingly pay the exorbitant prices. There’s no doubt in my mind that I would starve without making it to the Lair at least once a day.
Freshman film studies major, Shelly Lim, only dines in the Lair two to three times a week, avoiding it as much as possible. She chooses instead to eat microwavable meals and take-out, concerned about how much it’s costing her. Another student, sophomore chemistry major Gordon Duddy, despite upgrading his meal plan, still finds himself skipping meals in order to save lion dollars. “I never eat breakfast…and even if I do it’s the one meal I can afford a day,” Duddy said. Michael Elias, a freshman computer science major, was the only student I spoke to that felt the Lair was reasonably priced. He felt that only the healthy options were overpriced. But this presents a further question of the range of options.
There is a lot of talk around the country about access to healthy foods, and the root of the issue across the board has been that healthy options are simply too expensive for the average American to afford on a daily basis. Across the board of students I interviewed, all of them said that if another option was available, they would not eat in the Lair.
Nicole Infantino, a junior biology major, has eaten fairly often at the Lair in her time at LMU so far. Regarding the prices, she said “Oh it’s so bad, I’m pretty sure it’s gone up every year since I’ve been here.”
This is Joan Chang’s first year as Unit Marketing Specialists for Sodexo at LMU; therefore, she was unable to comment on the previous prices or a possible increase in prices over the years.
Inflation in the Lair may be one campus issue, but it’s evidence of a larger problem taking the country by storm — the vulnerability of college students. We’re so hungry for an education that we will literally go hungry for that opportunity. I failed to factor my quality of life—being what I eat, obviously (I am a Californian, after all, and we love to eat)—when choosing the institution I attended to further my education.
Not only that, but officials feel that they’re doing us a favor with the facilities provided. I don’t blame Sodexo for finding the profitability in students here at LMU, but I feel that it poses a moral question in the matter. Should my livelihood as a student really be at the mercy of the Lair’s register?
Want to give realtime feedback to the Lair? Feel free to text LMUeats to 82257. Don't forget that the LionExpress is available to take you to the Target, where you can pay lower prices for produce and everyday groceries.
This is the opinion of Rebecca Singleton, a freshman chemistry major from Palmdale, California. Tweet comments @LALoyolan, or email email@example.com.