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When Your Kid Complains About Dorm Food


When Your Kid Complains About Dorm Food

UCSB Student Union

Photo by Jackie Burrell
Question: When Your Kid Complains About Dorm Food
Every college parent hears this wail from their new or returning college kid: "The dorm food is terrible!" What can a parent do to help?
Answer: First of all, realize that no dorm serves the mystery meat and casserole stuff that you recall from your own dorm days. Today's college dining halls offer entree stations - typically, a Tex-Mex buffet, an Italian pasta cooked-to-order station, quick stir fries, a lavish salad bar, and a burger and grill station. College cafeterias may win no accolades from Michelin, but they all offer ample dining options and your child should be able to find something nice to eat every night. No, what this complaint really means, is "This food doesn't taste like Mom's. And I'm homesick."

So there are several things you can do, starting with murmuring sympathetically and exploring what the food options are:

  • Find Old Reliable: Encourage him to find something in the cafeteria that is always going to be OK. One of my sons made breakfast his main meal, because the omelet station was so appealing. Another child relied on the salad bar. And my third figured when all else failed, a panini or other sandwich was always fine.

  • Taco Tuesday: Large universities typically have multiple eating options and your child's meal card should confer dining privileges at all of them. Encourage him to check out the other dining halls with a roommate or friend - especially if the cafeterias offer popular Meatball Mondays or Taco Tuesdays.

  • Take the Mom Option: Every cafeteria has some sort of suggestion box, but many dorm chefs also offer a Mom Option. If your child brings in a recipe - whether it's for Mom's homemade mac and cheese with crumbly buttery breadcrumbs, or your family's Swedish meatballs - they'll make it for him.

  • Creativity in the Cafeteria: Your child might also consider doing a little creative mixing in the cafeteria - topping a Caesar salad from the salad bar with chicken from the grill station, for example.

  • Cook:If your child has a mini-fridge and microwave or rice cooker in his dorm room, or access to a communal kitchen, he can try a little dorm cooking of his own.

  • Care Packages: And a care package from home can take care of the homesickness issue and the food issue all at once. Pack up some cookies, microwaveable macaroni and cheese packages, crackers and peanut butter, tuck in a loving note and mail a little taste of home.
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