Contributing Writer

Sitting in Zest Bistro, also known as “Zebi,” I contemplate this little Sodexo branch over my third latté of the day and watch hundreds of students pass by.

Many are holding cardboard Sodexo coffee cups — a true staple of an F&M student’s wardrobe. It is a beautiful day, perfect for perching on the second floor of Zebi, F&M’s go-to place for coffee, soups, salads, and sandwiches. Its colorful staff is usually a bright spot in a sleep-deprived student’s pre-noon ritual, and, to its credit, is clean, attractive, and cheerful.

I sometimes come to Zebi over three times a day. However, there are several questionable policies at Zebi that I have a hard time morally reckoning with myself.

Zebi (roughly pronounced like “zebe,” an Arabic word that can be translated to mean “my penis”) is still charging 79 cents for a cup of water. Several months ago, The College Reporter came out with an Op-Ed addressing the Pennsylvania law that every restaurant is required to give free tap water upon request. The Diplomatic Congress issued a public statement promising to reform this policy of Zebi’s.

Although they called upon the café to obey the law, nothing has been done. Upon being asked, they claim that it is not the water they are charging for, but the inventory of the plastic cup.

Similarly, if one were to request more than two packets of Saltine crackers, the worker would charge you.

Although this varies with how merciful the waiter is with reminding you of their prices, the policy still stands.

Now, obviously my problem with these two matters comes down to the issue of money. At the risk of sounding entitled, for $60,000 a year we should be able to have as many cups of water and silly crackers as we want. Ordinary restaurants generously give both of these “commodities” away — so why shouldn’t Zebi?

Many of these policies are under the inherently illogical “Flex Dollars” versus “Dip Deal” differences. At Zebi, you can get a deli sandwich as a Dip Deal, but you will be charged on Flex for a flatbread sandwich. Note all these items are the same price, with the exception of a few cents. Is it so much more work to put a flatbread sandwich in the microwave that a student has to sacrifice Flex dollars? Flex dollars, which have never made sense to me, should be reserved for lattés and smoothies, not for lunch.

Yet all first-years are forced to have absurdly huge meal plans, without having a choice in what is Flex and what is a Dip Deal. But it’s all money and all the same.

Even if all this has to do with Sodexo’s policies inside F&M’s contract with them, then it is time for the administration to re-evaluate their relationship with this institutional food monopoly.

I believe a more honorable policy that would respect the amount of money students (particularly first-years) have to pay for meal plans would be to have any food stuffs count as a Dip Deal. Anything more than a soda, coffee, or tea should be on Flex.

It is really much more simple and easy to understand than the confusing and, frankly, absurd Sodexo categorizations of our lunches. Come on, F&M. It’s the principle of the matter.

Questions? Email Grace at

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