Students Lament Lack of Late Night Food Options

Emma Brentjens ‘21

Staff Writer

Haley Jobe ‘20 enjoys After Midnight treat. Photo by Claire Brantley ‘21.

The mention of late night food on campus during the SGA elections this year has brought attention to students’ current options, primarily Davis Café, Summit Coffee Outpost, and Union Board events like After Midnight. Many students, including Amanda Lee ‘21 and Elayna Daniels ‘21 have at times felt inconvenienced by the current late night options.

“For a lot of people I know, 11:00 isn’t really late night,” Lee said. Daniels expressed a similar concern, saying, “as a work study student, in the past I have worked for several hours until 11:00 or 12:00 and missed the late night window.”

SGA president Emmitt Sklar ‘21 included late night food in his running platform. This semester, Sklar is looking to continue a program started last fall that provides peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and bottled water down the hill on the weekends. “It doesn’t solve the majority of the food needs, but that’s what we’re starting with,” he said.

In order to address the issue of late night food options, Sklar said, “we changed the structure of SGA slightly” to include committees, one of which will tackle food options. “Individuals within that committee are specifically tasked with maintaining a relationship with the people who are involved” with dining services, Sklar explained. “Going forward, we’re going to try to work with them to see what they think can be done to meet what students needs are,” he added.

Sklar also sees an issue with food accessibility more generally. “Some of it isn’t just late night, some of it is accessibility to food options when we’re not in school,” he said. Over spring break, Commons and Davis Café were not open, which made it difficult for students staying on campus to get food that was not from a restaurant.  

Sklar also wants to ensure that dining services is “covering the needs of everyone, specifically athletes who have practice and lift at very specific times.” Additionally, Sklar said the SGA is “looking at some way in which we can not change that program but expand it so that it’s more accessible.”

Compared to some of its peer institutions, Davidson’s late night food availability may seem scarce. Carleton College, a school of a comparable size to Davidson in Minnesota, has four dining facilities, one of which stays open until midnight Sunday through Thursday and 1:00 am on Fridays and Saturdays. Colby College in Maine has two main late night options, a café called The Spa and The Pub. The Spa stays open for late night dining until 1:00 in the morning Tuesday through Thursday, 2:00 am on Saturdays, and midnight on Sundays and Mondays. The Pub is open Tuesday through Saturday until 11:59 pm.

Kenyon College, a school with slightly fewer students than Davidson, however, does not offer food as late. The primary dining facility on campus, Peirce Dining Hall, stays open until 8:00 pm at the latest. The Gambier Deli, also located on campus, closes at 3:00 pm.

Lewis and Kerwin Astudillo, chef and manager at Davis Café, explained that the café’s hours and food options are primarily affected by space limitations. “The facility that we’re working out of was not designed for half the volume we’re doing now,” Lewis said. Astudillo reiterated, “the only issue that we have is the space.” The café is trying to open the Red Line at dinnertime, “but it’s really really hard because of the time-consuming preparation,” he said.

Due to limited kitchen space, the café also encounters storage issues. “We have to get food in five days a week just to keep up our regular business levels,” Lewis said. Furthermore, the café space is surrounded by the 900 Room on one side and an elevator on the other, making expansion difficult. According to Lewis, “dining services is rarely involved in the preliminary planning stages for any building.”

Despite working out of a restricting space, the Davis Café recently extended its late night meal plan so that more stations are open until 11:00 pm. “It almost quadruples the number of options that students have at late night,” said Mark Lewis, the director of cash operations at the café. The oven station used to be the only station open for the late night meal plan. Lewis sees the role of Davis Café “as being a consistent option nearby.”

The Summit Outpost began serving food until 2:00 am on Fridays and Saturdays at the beginning of the fall 2018 semester. The café manager Dora Callahan ‘16 said, “part of our contract with the college is being a late night food option.” This commitment has taken other forms as well. “We did food trucks for a little while, but now we’re doing it directly from our building,” Callahan said. The primary goal of the current model was finding “this healthy balance for our staff and what we were able to do and what we could provide to students,” Callahan added.

Callahan thinks that “for the most part” the Outpost’s late night program is successful. She also thinks that their business sometimes depends on campus events. “In general we’re successful when there’s a lot going on on campus,” Callahan said.

When the Summit Outpost first arrived on campus, it was primarily a late night establishment. The Outpost now serves a more varied role, staying open during the day and “also [providing] this late night experience,” Callahan explained.

As far as future changes go, Callahan said, “we will probably reevaluate over the summer.” She added that the Outpost is open to suggestions.

Lee, who has a gluten allergy, likes that the Summit Outpost has a late night option, but wishes the cafe offered gluten-free food. “It’s awkward when a group of friends goes to [the Outpost] and they’re all eating pizza and there’s nothing that’s safe for me to eat,” she said.

According to Union Board Chief-of-Staff Haley Jobe ‘20, the Union Board is “committed to late night programming once a week,” meaning from 9:00 pm to midnight. “Our main flagship late night event is After Midnight,” Jobe said. After Midnight is a monthly event that usually lasts from midnight until 1:30 in the morning. “We see our role in that as bringing in an outside food option that students can’t normally get,” she added. The event usually gathers 150 to 200 students.

Though many Union Board events provide free food to students, Jobe sees the events as “primarily focused on that fun aspect, the treat,” rather than a consistent late night food option.

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