The Commons Effect

Our Beloved Vail Commons is a source great conflict in my life.  I walk down the stairs, swipe my card, and find myself surrounded by a plethora of tempting options.  Do I want a pizza…..the lo mein…..maybe the Commonsavocado lime chicken……actually……I think I’ll just have one of each.  This was the typical debate I would have with myself every time I went to Commons my freshmen year, and it almost always ended in the same way, with a tray full of food that I didn’t need to eat, and I was never alone.  This is what I like the call The Commons Effect

All of my friends would load their trays with mountains of food, much of which they would take a few nibbles of only to realize that they didn’t want the food as much as they previously thought.  At the end of the meal we march to the conveyor belt and send our uneaten food off to the Narnia that is Common’s kitchen.

This is possibly my biggest grip with Commons, and sadly I too am not helping the problem.  I believe this to be a problem with the way that Davidson structures its meal plan.  Students with a meal plan are restricted to using one meal per meal period, and these meal periods are heavily structures as well.  As a result, whenever I would go to commons for a meal, I would know that this would be one of the two or three opportunities I would have that day to eat.  As I scanned the dining room for enticing options, I would always overestimate my appetite, and subsequently waste whatever I couldn’t eat.  Davidson is essentially binding its students to the three square meal a day norm that our society is so fond of, and which Margaret Mead openly spoke against.

This past year I have had the pleasure of enjoying the flexibility of my fraternities meals.  I eat whenever I choose, and if I’m not hungry at a “normal” meal time, I know there will be leftovers and snacks for when I am hungry.   This flexibility has resulted in me generally feeling better.  Rather than stuffing my face two or three times a day, I stroll over to my fraternity house for small meals and snacks whenever I please, and I have noticed an interesting, unintended result of this.  I don’t waste.  When I go to eat a meal, I get what I need, and I eat all of it.  I do a much better job of portioning my own meals, and of reducing my waste.

Commons should investigate the possibility of the unlimited meal plan.  This would let all students enjoy the flexibility that I now enjoy.  Of course this would create many logistical problems for Commons, but I’m sure with time these could be worked out.  Maybe only have the meals available during hours the current hours, but have snacks available all day.  This would let students satisfy their cravings when they hit, bring an end to The Commons Effect, and possibly reduce the waste generated in our lovely dining hall.

Wasted Food Comic