Snapshots of Brown: What’s the Deal With Dropping Meal Plan?

Week 2

Welcome to Snapshots of Brown, your destination for pics of Brown all year long! I’m Celina Stewart, and I’ll be bringing you little photo insights into my third year on Brown’s campus. What’s up this week? Let’s take a look… 

“What will I eat?” I spent significant time mulling this question over when touring universities. Growing up with an Italian/Cajun grandmother and a mother that learned home-style Indonesian recipes when we lived overseas, I learned to love food at a young age. My holidays were spent recording recipes on scrap papers (seriously, I have a whole makeshift trapper-keeper of them at home), some of which are now indecipherable without living relatives to ask about their secret ingredients. While food wasn’t a hugely deciding factor for me, it clearly plays a role in your choice of school. In this post, I’ll give you some insights into several different programs that Brown offers, all designed to indulge students of any culinary preference. 

As a first year student, you’ll be required to eat on meal plan, frequenting any of Brown’s dining establishments (my personal favorite is the Blue Room- check out Hungry As A Bear for more information on Brown’s dining halls!). This is great for a couple of reasons: first and foremost, you don’t have to spend as much time budgeting during the school year. Once you decide which meal plan you’d like to be on, you essentially use “points” and “swipes” until they run out. With on campus dining, you’ll have access to a variety of vegetarian, kosher/Halal, and even vegan options; you’ll also be able to have daily access to staples such as salad, burgers, quesadillas, and the legendary Spicy With. Secondly, eating becomes a huge social activity. Because everyone is required to eat on campus, you spend a ton of time getting to know friends over meals- plus dining halls allow you to see and spend time with people that may not live with you. After your first time getting snowed into a dorm, you’ll understand just how great that is!

My sophomore year, I decided to go off of meal plan. I’m not a fan of institutionalized dining- the hours didn’t work with my schedule, and I wasn’t experiencing the social component that so many of my friends seemed to enjoy when they spent hours at the dining halls chatting and doing homework (I’m also a lone studier). My foray into local Providence dining was fun- I got to eat at food trucks, and usually got dinner at one of several restaurants/eateries on Thayer Street (all very comparably priced, compared to what I had spent on meal plan). Food trucks are a great asset to College Hill in my opinion- I still grab lunch at one almost every day when they’re available. However, I had to learn to budget; not only was I watching my wallet, but my calories.

This year, I finally have access to a kitchen- it’s amazing. My suite mates and I cook almost every night (not necessarily one giant meal, but we all usually spend time in the kitchen together). One thing we decided was that we wanted to branch out and start eating local, rather than heading to the grocery store every week. As the photo above suggests, we now participate in Brown’s Market Share program, in which local farms bring produce, cheese, dairy items, and meat to campus and students participating get to take home their “share”. What’s great about this program is the variety- we are signed up for the produce and cheese shares; we get to select one cheese and take home a share of the specific week’s produce offerings. This week, we received collard greens, Swiss chard, scallions, potatoes, bell peppers, turnips, beets, and apples. Last week, we enjoyed onion, garlic, cherry tomatoes, ground cherries (the little husky looking things in the photo), carrots, eggplant, and a butternut squash. Clearly, we had to supplement this produce with creativity and our pantry, but overall, we’ve been incredibly satisfied. One other great option that Brown offers during the fall is the Farmer’s Market. Vendors bring produce, bread, baked goods, meat, eggs, and cheese, giving students both on and off of meal plan the option to get local, fresh food.

If you have any questions or would like to know more about off-campus dining, feel free to ask! I’ve explored the greater College Hill region (including some neighboring communities, like the amazing Latin American food of Central Falls, RI), downtown Providence, and of course, the food trucks that pass through. I’m happy to get more specific about eating local too!

Have questions or comments? Want more details? Send an email to celina_stewart@brown.edu and I’ll get back ASAP!

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