If you’re a returning student, you’re already aware, and freshmen, you’ll soon discover the monotony that is the Binghamton University Dining Services (BUDS) menu here at Binghamton University. Sure, eggs, bacon and hash browns are staples in the American breakfast paradigm — there are no complaints to be had there. But the other mealtime options, put simply, are quite bland.
The usual options of pizza, Boar’s Head, or deep-fried whatever is not nearly enough to satisfy those outside of the University’s majority. But before I continue, I would like to acknowledge that, yes, there are other options on campus like the “Asian cuisine” in the Hinman College Dining Hall and the Marketplace, the burrito spot in Appalachian Collegiate Center and the College-in-the-Woods (CIW) Dining Hall and the barbecue chicken spot on the ground floor of CIW Dining Hall. These, along with the generic pastas, pizza and various sandwich combinations offered around campus, pretty much sum up what’s available here. However, in all the aforementioned, none were geared toward students of African descent, who make up roughly 5 percent of the student body.
As we all know, food is a basic necessity of life, and for most, if not all of us, it is quite difficult when you lack food representative of your own culture and what you’ve grown up eating your entire life. Certain foods are not customarily consumed as often — or even at all — in certain cultures during our upbringing, and such a sudden shift in diet can upset not only your approach to eating, but also your stomach during digestion. It’s even harder when you’re in a whole new setting and the only options available to you during dinner time are either overly salted or completely void of flavor. This, at times, is enough to dissuade students from even making the effort to venture to the dining halls knowing that the options will be short of satisfying, even in full awareness of having paid hundreds of dollars for a meal plan.
The only plausible response to this need for food that is both representative and seasoned would be to provide a permanent option like Julion’s Kitchen. Julion’s Kitchen was a limited-time event held on Feb. 4, 2018 where Chick-N-Bap currently operates, which offered an array of African and Caribbean cuisine. This included jollof rice, steamed cabbage, rice and peas, stew beef and jerk barbecue, as well as other vegan options; it was a well-rounded event and a total success. Julion’s Kitchen was so popular and celebrated, it sold out within the first hour and a half of its scheduled five-hour time slot, which was supposed to be between the hours of 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. This goes to show how dire the need for well-prepared, seasoned food among students of African descent is on this campus as well as the profitability of such a venue.
This isn’t a request that can go unanswered, as BUDS is more than capable of implementing a space for African and Caribbean cuisine, considering it has included bubble tea in the CIW Dining Hall, F’real milkshakes and the expensive and somewhat exclusive options in the Chenango Room. That’s not to mention the billions of dollars being made annually by the company in the U.S. alone. With that being said, all we need is a place where we can get food that matches our culture and upbringing — not only for the taste, but also for a sense of belonging here at BU. It’s similar to how we universally welcome a new person into our home — we offer them a dish typically consumed in our culture.