The American Dormitory/Cafeteria System Is Unhealthy And Wasteful

It's been five years since I graduated college. Since then I've worked in higher ed for most of my career. Occasionally I visit the student residence websites just to see if things have changed. Mostly because I work so close to the student residences that if they did have good food in the cafeteria it would be convenient.

But they don't. It's the same food as 5 years ago. In the cafeteria they serve students the kind of diet scientists use to cause rats to gain weight. And there is a food court with fast food restaurants. The food at the fancy private school I worked at was only slightly better. 

Which is kind of shocking, because it's pretty expensive per meal to eat at these cafeterias. And the dorm accomodations are pretty unpleasant too- communal bathrooms where you can get athletes foot or step over weekend mounds of barf, and you usually don't get your own room, which means if you are unlucky enough to have a roommate with a very different schedule than yours, you won't get much sleep. It's no wonder I was sick all the time. It annoys me that my bill for this was responsible for a large portion of my student debt, since being an ag student, my actual education was fairly affordable. 

That all changed when I studied in Sweden. Despite the country's reputation, the housing there was LESS expensive and had private bedrooms and bathrooms. It was less expensive because there was no cafeteria. By and large, you cooked your own food. Often people defend the American dorm system as a place where you learn some kind of life skills or something, but it's unlikely you'll ever be in an environment like that again. The shopping and cooking skills I learned in Sweden, I'll use for the rest of my life. The food was healthier, cheaper, and better tasting. 

If you had class away from your dorm, there were cheap student-run restaurants. The food there was pretty good because we made it. Usually from scratch. And that allowed a lot of students who otherwise wouldn't have food and beverage industry experience to gain some.  Also it was a way to learn about and preserve local culinary traditions. 

One of the things the Swedish and American systems have in common is that binge drinking is an issue in student culture in both places. But because drinking is legal for almost every student (the drinking age is 18), it's usually done in bars, which are far safer environments than someone's apartment or a Greek house. 

In the US students are not treated like or expected to live like adults. They have a new parent, which is the college and/or Greek organization, and those are not good parents.