Late meal is one of the most beloved features of Princeton student life. So much so that Princeton recently held a special free late meal for seniors to allow them to relive their freshman and sophomore year late meal experience. Princeton’s Campus Dining website explains the rationale behind late meal: “Campus Dining recognizes that students may be unable to dine during regular dining hall hours. Therefore, students with meal plans are entitled to use their plan to purchase late lunches Monday to Friday and late dinner Monday to Thursday at the Food Gallery at Frist. One meal swipe is credited for all late meal purchases. You may only use one meal swipe per period.”
Late meal has a plethora of food options: from quesadillas to sushi to chicken tenders and fries. Even if a student has attended lunch or dinner during the normal hours, they can still buy pre-packaged or fresh cooked food at late meal. Unfortunately, from Friday afternoon to Sunday evening, Princeton students cannot reap these conveniences that late meal provides.
Although late meal is only offered on weekdays, the need for late meal doesn’t disappear once Friday evening hits. In fact, students arguably need it even more on the weekends. On Saturdays and Sundays, Princeton only offers two meal periods: brunch and dinner. Although students can theoretically get in three meals on the weekends by attending brunch twice and dinner once, realistically many students do not do so for various reasons, including catching up on sleep. For this reason, freshmen and sophomores only receive two meals on Saturday and Sunday, whereas on weekdays they receive five. If Princeton extends late meal to the weekends, students can use brunch as breakfast and late meal as a lunch alternative. And for those who do end up waking up early, they could use Friday late dinner, if implemented, to have breakfast foods to eat in the early morning (not everyone will be inclined to walk to Wucox for breakfast if they don’t live close by). On weekends, we also lose the chance to use one or both late meals for snacks. During Sundays especially, healthy snacks are vital to successful studying and homework completion as they provide long-term energy. Proper nutrition is needed to support academic performance.
For underclassmen, late meal represents more than just food: it is an accessible and convenient method of socializing. For example, after my Fundamentals of Neuroscience class, hordes of my classmates and I head to Frist to destress and bond with friends over a meal.
Late meal is also more affordable than eating out on Nassau Street: an eight-dollar purchase per late meal period is included in the unlimited meal plan, which freshmen and sophomores are required to have. On weekends, if freshmen and sophomores are not going to Nassau Street, there is no free opportunity for them to socialize and bond over a meal in the unique environment that late meal provides. Therefore, the first-generation, low-income in particular benefit from the service, since money spent on Nassau or ordering food can quickly add up.
Given that the Street is not as open on Fridays to non-members, late dinner would constitute an important Friday night social activity. Expanding late lunch and dinner availability to every Friday evening, Saturday, and Sunday would aid in diversifying Princeton’s social scene, which has received criticism in the past for being too heavily centered around the Street, by giving students a fun environment to hang out in. Even the students who do end up choosing the Street to have fun over the weekend would benefit from having a free meal instead of having to pay for drunk meal.
I acknowledge that there are some logistical challenges in offering late meals on weekends, most notably the fact that most dining staff probably don't want to come to work on the weekends. In this case, Princeton should consider hiring part-time staff who would only come in on weekends.
In short, Princeton’s freshmen and sophomores would benefit greatly if the University extended Late Meal. Princeton administration, offer late meal on weekends!
Ndeye Thioubou is a first-year from The Bronx, New York. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.