By Eli Saperstein, Opinions Editor
Upon returning to campus from winter break on January 24, 2022, students noticed significant price increases for food in the cafeterias compared to the prices prior to the cafeteria’s closing for winter break.
In a statement to the YU Observer, Dining Services relayed, “[a]s prices of everyday items continue to increase both nationally and locally, stemming largely from the pandemic, Yeshiva University Dining Services continues to explore options to insulate students and faculty from absorbing these costs. However, the reality is these prices are only forecasted to rise.” Dining Services continued to explain, “Unfortunately, it has become necessary to make price adjustments on certain cafeteria items to account for these dramatic national increases. Of course, should the cost of food and supplies decrease to pre-pandemic prices, our prices will equally reflect those trends.” Their statement concluded by saying, “Importantly, we will continue to subsidize the price of the Shabbat meals for students, as we have always done.”
Additionally, Randy Apfelbaum,Chief Facilities and Administrative Officer at Yeshiva University, sent a statement to the YU Observer detailing some of the many initiatives they have accomplished over the break and ones that will begin being instituted. Apfelbaum outlined the increased hours of some Wilf campus commissaries, saying, “[Nagel Bagels], in addition to its regular hours, is now going to be open at night [on] Sunday-Thursday [from] 7:45 p.m.-11:30 p.m.” and the “Sky Café is re-opening [on] Monday-Thursday from 11:30 a.m.- 2:00 p.m. with grab n’ go food.”
In continuing to describe the initiatives, Apfelbaum described that the YU caf card will have increased functions as “[t]he vending machines on all campuses will be accepting the YU one-card in the next few weeks” and “[b]oth Golan and Grandma’s have decided to join as a participating vendor. Students can now purchase food there tax-free, using their FLEX dollars.” Apfelbaum concluded, “[m]ore initiatives will be forthcoming in the near future.”
Some students reacted strongly to the increase in prices. David Price (SSSB ‘24) told the YU Observer that “[w]henever anyone complains about the Caf prices, the standard answer is that YU doesn’t make a profit off of the Caf. If that is the case, the question is, who is? If students are required to put thousands of dollars a year into their account, there should be more transparency as to why it costs more to buy food in the basement of Rubin than in the Upper Westside. It’s cheaper to go to a restaurant than eat in the Caf. The only reason why students use the Caf card is because YU mandates it.”
Many students expressed their frustration with how the prices were increased and what these changes mean for their semester. An anonymous student (SCW ‘24) explained to the YU Observer, “YU seems to be insensitive to students’ financial needs as they raise caf prices knowing that the students need to eat. It’s disrespectful and insensitive to those who depend on the caf for food.”
Students who do not live within the close vicinity of campus, out-of-towners, pointed out that they have been impacted more than their in-town counterparts. As an out-of-towner, it may be more difficult to make the cafeteria money last the duration of the semester compared to an in-towner due to the increased amount of time spent on-campus, eating in campus facilities. As a result of this,the price increase has made a tough situation even more financially difficult. One out-of-town student (SCW ‘23) expressed, “I’m an out-of-towner who stays in almost every Shabbat, so last semester, I ran out of money on my caf card. I’m scared I’ll run out faster this semester because of the price increase. The student also pointed out the different situations for the Wilf students and the Beren students with the Caf card which is further reflected in the apparent focus of the new initiatives that primarily benefit the Wilf campus while ignoring the Beren campus, “It’s a bit frustrating that there are so many outside options uptown while downtown we only have two options, one being extremely overpriced. Yet we still have to deal with the [same] insane price increase in the caf.”
Other students were more understanding but wished that there was more transparency when making the changes to the meal plan. One anonymous student (SCW ‘23) shared, “If the caf price increase is [proportional] to the rise in prices everywhere, I get it. But I wish they would just let us know before things like this happen. I know students would have complained, but now not only are we complaining, but we are also resentful that we didn’t have advance warning.”
This is not the first time YU has made changes to the meal plan. In 2019, the meal plan’s distribution method changed and was retracted after the student body’s subsequent outrage. The current changes to the cafeteria meal plan appear to simply be price increases on many items, but the result is the same as students are once again forced to pay more money for less food.
The YU Observer asked for a list of items that had price changes as well as if there have been any attempts to contact students informing them of the price increases but as of publication the YU Observer has received no response from the administration.
Photo Credit: Cayla Muschel