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Increase in campus dining prices leads to student struggles

The interior of East Side Dining’s market, “The Emporium.” Prices across various campus dining locations have increased making it harder for students to eat. BRITTNEY DIETZ/THE STATESMAN

In the fall 2023 semester, Stony Brook University has seen price increases across various campus dining locations. 

According to Diana Kubik, executive director of the Faculty Student Association, retail prices across the University have increased by about 8.6%, aligning with the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index for Food and Beverage. 

“Food prices went up and portion sizes decreased,” Caitlin Chio, a student worker at East Side Market, said.

While a couple of dollars may not make much of a difference to some, many students who already struggle to get by financially will be pained by the price increases. 

“I feel [that if] the pricing could be a little lower, everyone could be happier,” Stuart Goldstein, a customer service supervisor at West Side Dining and Market, said. 

Although inflation is out of the University’s control, Kubik reiterated that price hikes for campus meal options have put a strain on students, especially those who have limited access to off-campus food options.

“I don’t have a car,” Vito Malaj, a junior technological systems management major, stated during a conversation about cheaper alternatives. “As the prices of food increased, I’ve been limiting dining dollars.”

The ripple effect of increased food prices has also affected other facets of campus life. As students work on balancing budgets, they are forced to either skip out on meals or lose necessities. Goldstein recalled an instance when he had to help a student buy necessary supplies.

“A lot of kids struggle; I had to buy a kid toilet paper,” he said.

“Nationally, there have been supply chain issues which have contributed to increased volatility in import, export, producer, and consumer prices in the months following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States,” Kubik wrote in an email to The Statesman.

She also explained that the prices of meat, fish and dairy have been hit particularly hard in the post-pandemic economy. 

“The cost to us for ground beef patties has increased by 9%, mayonnaise has increased [by] 23% and salmon has increased by 16%,” Kubik said. “We do our best to offer street price comparisons to off campus vendors.”

Maintaining staff wages and benefits are also factors contributing to these price increases. Kubik explained that the University provides full health insurance and retirement plans to on-campus dining workers, benefits that many off-campus establishments do not provide to their employees. 

With students struggling to navigate price increases, Kubik said the University is exploring options for the future.

“We are already reviewing meal plans and retail pricing for next year to be able to provide the most affordable options for students,” Kubik said. 

Regardless of these efforts, students are not hopeful that food options on campus will become more affordable anytime soon.

“Unless the economy improves, I don’t think it’s gonna decrease,” Chio said.

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