Journal of College & University Student Housing Vol. 47 No. 2 - 20

Dissatisfaction with the Quality of the Food
Overall, most participants in our study expressed dissatisfaction-ranging from
ambivalence to outright dislike-with the
quality of food offered at campus dining locations. Some, like Abi (all names are pseudonyms), indicated that eating at the dining
halls on campus was a difficult transition,
but they were " getting used to it. " Abi, who
objected to an overall lack of flavor in American food, said he was " used to eating lots of
spicy food but here is, the way Americans
define spice, it's a little bit different from
what [I am] used to. "
	
This feeling was echoed by other participants, demonstrating a general lack of
satisfaction among international students
regarding the taste of food on campus. Jan
Are went further, saying that he did his best
to try different foods at different locations,
but that he was " pretty much " surviving on
bread, since that was " always good. " Similarly, Betina also relied on one familiar
food item: in this case, rice. Both participants stated how they and other international students will choose foods based on
what is already familiar to them from their
own traditions and values, similar to what
Alakaam and Willyard (2020) reported of
participants in their study. Baby said that
" at first, I thought [the food] was cool, " but
after only one month of eating American
foods like pizzas and hamburgers, " I go to
the dining hall and I be like, they don't have
anything to eat . . . I'm done with it. " These
students expressed their frustration at the
lack of quality food options available to them
in the dining halls, but also indicated that

they had strategies to make their experiences better, like finding some of their preferred
foods and rotating dining locations. Many
more, however, expressed their perceptions
of campus food with stronger displeasure.
	
Most of the participants described negative feelings about the quality of food on campus, recognizing that food is a powerful connection to feelings of home and belonging
for college students (Wang & Mallinckrodt,
2006). Muskan said her experience eating on
campus " sucks . . . . Everything here is frozen.
Like, we don't get fresh food and it just [tastes
terrible] after going in the freezer. " Unlike the
fresh, homemade food she was accustomed
to in her home country, the food served in
U.S. dining halls is often processed and unhealthy (Lee, 2017; Msengi et al., 2011; Yan &
FitzPatrick, 2016). XL described how, during
a week in which he was required to eat in the
dining hall each day, he usually just took " a
drink and snack 'cause some food is somehow sweet and we are not used to [eating]
some food which contains sugar. " In short,
he said, " I couldn't last four years . . . eating
it. " Both Muskan and XL shared negative feelings about how the food tasted and its lack of
nutritional value, comparing it to the quality
and freshness of food in their home countries
(Yan & Fitzpatrick, 2016).
	
Likewise, Maria said the food served on
campus was " not good, " and she was " really
tired " of it, citing the frustration of having to
eat the same food over and over. She mentioned trying to vary her diet, but " it's not
something I really like " and that just having
a wide variety of options was unsatisfactory.
Another participant, Natalia, stated that the

. . . positive dining experiences can contribute to students' overall satisfaction
with their institution and are especially related to greater feelings of
community and sense of belonging.
Volume 47, No. 2 * 2021

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