Cafeteria Review: A Critical Serving on Campus Entrees

Every day thousands of students attend classes at Santa Monica College. With three satellite campuses and the school's main campus, there's a continual growth in the student population (though schools nationwide this year, however, have seen a drop in enrollment, including SMC).

I first attended classes in the fall of 1995, and 10 years later with a bachelor's degree, a lot of professional work experience and the chance to attend graduate school, I think of how much I owe this community college.

Many must feel the same way about the campus, and quoting W. Somerset Maugham, "If you refuse to accept anything but the best, you often get it." I feel this philosophy drives our teachers, students and administration towards keeping SMC the best.

Yet, somehow when it comes to the cafeteria something strange happened. Nothing about the place seems to have changed in the past 10 years. Not one restaurant, not the tables, nor the pink paint that adorns the walls.

"Overall the food's getting better," said Charlie Yen, Director of Events and Contracts at SMC. "In the cafeteria there is food for everybody." For myself, who eats everything and anything, willing to try the most ethnic, unheard of dish, Yen's statements hold a lot of truth.

Is there any truth in these statements for someone concerned with anaphylaxis shock? Picture dying from eating a peanut.

Thankfully the Bush Administration signed the "Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act," taking effect January 1, 2006, and made sure that the eight major food allergens - milk, egg, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy and wheat - will get listed on food labels.

For those vegans among us, does salad every day satisfy hunger? And what about the starving students on campus who fear a deadly allergic reaction? Looking at the Los Angeles Department of Health's criteria for grading restaurants nothing is stated concerning rating them for providing enough variety for all eaters.

Nor is anything mentioned for grading them on their ability to provide the proper answers for those suffering food allergies. It seems that in a public environment where the public's money pays for the facilities that the state, county, city or school should provide the proper nourishment.

"I feel that the selection of food is limited. I don't eat meat except for fish, but they never have it," said Robert Foster, SMC student and the director of Academic Support.

Of course SMC isn't UCLA with a ton of restaurants, though it seems they strive in that direction with a ton of new parking meters (eat at Native Foods in Westwood if you ever get the chance).

"When dealing with food allergies awareness is extremely important," said Eileen Sexton, Director of Communications at the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN), "and each year the number of people with food allergies increases." With 11 million U.S. citizens suffering from allergies, the need for greater concern seems evident.

Specifically in California Gov. Schwarzenegger passed legislation that allows students and kids to carry epinephrine shots with them anywhere they go. If you can't get tell the truth and you're careless about the environment, then at least support those with food allergies, though this seems as if it's a contradiction in itself.

Wake up world, pay attention to your surroundings and stop acting as if the small things don't matter. I think if we helped people eat better, then perhaps people might feel less stress in an environment where there is enough stress to give an elephant a heart attack.