September 12, 2008

Prices at Cornell Eateries Reflect Soaring Food Costs

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Big Red Bucks have long been regarded as play money. Many students barely even notice how much we are paying for lunch when some cashiers merely refer to them as “points.” However, Big Red Bucks are going a lot quicker this semester due to an increase in food prices.
A sign on a Pepsi vending machine in the Straight reads: “Cornell Vending Prices are being adjusted for Fall 2008 semester to reflect rising costs for products and vending machine services. Prices on items offered in this machine have been adjusted accordingly. Thank you for your continued patronage.”
However, not every campus eatery is being as up front about their price increases.
Richard Anderson, the general manager of residential dining and retail store operations, estimates that the Dining Hall meal plans have seen a four-percent increase from last year. But this is not the highest rise in meal costs between two years that Cornell has ever seen.
This increase is due to wholesale costs and transportation, both of which dramatically drive up the cost of food. Additionally, the cost of utilities that are needed for cooking cause food prices to elevate.
“In general, we have seen an average increase in product costs to us increase seven to eight percent,” Anderson said.[img_assist|nid=31631|title=Spare change|desc=The cost of food on campus has fluctuated with national costs of production. The cost of pork, for example, has seen a 31-percent increase.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
“There have been specific areas that have increased significantly. For example, pork has risen 31 percent. Chicken has been more in the range of a seven percent increase,” Anderson explained.
Anderson also attributed the fuel price increase as an effect of the rising cost of food.
Consumer Reports reported last week that the national average for a gallon of regular gasoline was $3.68, up $.884 cents from this time last year. Diesel is even more expensive, at a current average of $4.12, which has affected prices.
Not everything is more costly for Cornell Dining prices, though. Anderson explained that some prices have actually fallen.
“Last fall, we saw a dramatic increase in milk pricing and by early this year we saw pricing decrease, and we lowered the price,” Anderson said.
He added that there has been in a decline in the price of flour and oils.
“We evaluate pricing in line with our costs, demand and market conditions. We typically establish our retail pricing for the academic year and do our best to maintain them. There will always be cost pressures that impact pricing but we do our best to maximize the value and quality of our products and provide affordable options to the community,” Anderson said.
Despite the increase in pricing, Anderson has heard few complaints from parents or students about the hike in food costs.
“We believe that the reason there has not be an outcry is that everyone feels the food increases at home, all national media from print to TV have talked about the dramatic increases in food and energy costs,” Anderson said.
Kristin Traina ’11 had not noticed the increase in prices.
“It doesn’t surprise me that the prices for food on Cornell’s campus have risen. Prices are rising due to our economy’s state so it seems consistent with the rest of the world and the economy as a whole,” Traina said.
Aaron Mank, a cashier at Ivy Room, said most people have not noticed the price increase due to the fact that many students do not pay with cash when eating at an on-campus dining facility.
“I think more people would care if it was their own money, but since it’s Big Red Bucks they don’t really notice. People paying in cash are much more likely to notice,” Mank said.
Traina echoed this sentiment.
“For Big Red Bucks, you’ve already spent the money, so you aren’t really paying attention to a slight rise in prices. It’s not like you are physically handing money over. Plus most people at Cornell are in a constant rush, so the price of lunch isn’t necessarily their top priority,” Traina said.