American River College has limited food options and availability for campus patrons

Students return by more than 40%, yet food options have not kept pace


American River College students Angelina Dunn-Byrom and Ejley McKenry take a break in the cafeteria. (Photo by Gina Gangursky)

“Food, glorious food, hot sausage and mustard…” so the song from the famous musical “Oliver!” goes. The current number of food options on the American River College campus might not cause students to break out in song like the characters in the musical, but if one looks closely, a few choices are available. 

From Steve’s Pizza to a “vending market” in the cafeteria, to the 5 Sips Coffee & Tea walk-up service and the student-run bakery and Oak Café, students have a few options, but hours and days of availability are limited. 

More than 40% of students are back on campus since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but food options are not as plentiful as they were in busier times. 

According to Scott Crow, ARC’s public information officer, students had far more options for food and drink, pre-pandemic.

“The food services landscape has changed dramatically since the pandemic. We have fewer people on campus on a daily basis, which does create challenges for food services,” Crow said in an email to The Current.

For now, the cafeteria has four microwaves that patrons can use to warm food in, or, if they choose, they can purchase a slice of pepperoni or cheese pizza from the new Steve’s Pizza.

The signage above the vending machines and refrigerators shouts “World Market,” “Greens,” “Grill,” “Soups,” “Beverages” –a stark reminder of the cafeteria’s glory days, and maybe a sign of things to come, pun intended.  

“We are in the process of evaluating options and considering a number of important factors. We are glad to offer the current options of Steve’s Pizza and 5 Sips Coffee, as well as the “vending market” and its “grab and go” choices,” Crow said. 

Angelina Dunn-Byrom and Ejley McKenry, both ARC students, are frequent patrons in the cafeteria. Dunn-Byrom visits the cafeteria on Thursdays, when she is on campus for classes. She has wanted to visit the Oak Café, but it is closed when she takes a food break. 

“In the cafeteria, I usually buy one of the [frozen] pizzas, a Dr. Pepper and a lot of snacks,” Dunn-Byrom said. 

Ejley McKenry would like to see more food options in the cafeteria, such as soup and salad. For now, she likes to study in the lounge area near 5 Sips Coffee & Tea with a cold beverage from the vendor. 

According to McKenry, the 5 Sips roast is better than Starbucks’ coffee.  

“I buy an iced coffee. [5 Sips] is better because it’s not mass-produced,” McKenry said. 

The campus bakery and the Oak Café are popular with the college community as well as the public. The bakery is only open on Tuesdays from 8 a.m.–1 p.m., and the line for sandwiches, quiche and other student-produced goods is often out the door and down the sidewalk. 

Frances Petersen, an ARC student, can be found at the cash register on Tuesdays serving eager patrons.

“Sandwiches are served at 11 a.m. Our turkey sandwich is our most popular option with the students, and quiches are very popular with the public,” Petersen said. “They order sliced and whole quiches. Sometimes we have 20-30 patrons from off-campus. 

Michael Sullivan, an ARC student, says he buys sandwiches at the Oak Café regularly.

“It’s easy, quick–you can grab [a sandwich]. I’m here every day anyway, so it’s convenient for me,” Sullivan said.

The bakery and the Oak Café are student-run through the ARC Hospitality Management program, which provides training in food preparation and restaurant management.

So, with increasing student activity on campus, more culinary options are likely to become available. Surely the characters in “Oliver!” would sing about that.