Food for thought: Campus dining options need improvement


Zamira Recinos | Special to The Union

The Union’s Editorial Board believes the dining experience on campus can improve by offering more affordability and more variety in its food choices, including healthier options.

El Camino College provides two on-campus dining options: Café Camino and El Cappuccino.

Café Camino’s menu consists of standard American cuisine, including burgers, sandwiches and fries. 

El Cappuccino’s offerings fare better due to its Starbucks and sushi offerings, but the choice in food for its regular menu is severely lacking and is not close to items that were initially pitched.

Originally, Pacific Dining’s Food Service Manager Alexander Cook said El Cappuccino would feature smoothies, paninis, seasonal soups and a full Tex-Mex menu featuring build-your-own tacos, quesadillas and burrito bowls. 

El Cappuccino has been in operation since the fall 2022 semester and does not feature any of the original promised food items.

Both dining options on campus offer no incentives for customers due to a lack of options and high prices without student discounts or Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) acceptance.

All colleges serviced by El Camino College’s contracted catering company Pacific Dining feature similar menus with the same prices without offering discounts or food assistance programs, including EBT.

In addition to a lack of variety, food on campus is costly when compared to local restaurants. A “Classic Burger” meal without cheese at Café Camino costs $8.49, but McDonald’s on Crenshaw Boulevard offers a two-cheeseburger meal deal for the same price.

A “Super Burrito” with beef, beans, rice, cheese, lettuce and salsa at El Cappuccino costs $7.99, but a “Combo Burrito” with similar ingredients is $4.49 at Del Taco across the street from parking Lot K.

Neither Café Camino nor El Cappuccino offer student discounts or accept EBT cards. The Union staff reached out to Pacific Dining President Richard McMahon but were instructed to conduct the interview via email, which goes against The Union’s policy.

El Camino’s Financial Aid and Basic Needs Assistant Director David said the El Camino College district will be making a request for proposal with catering companies this year. 

The Union’s Editorial Board suggests the district should seek out different catering alternatives to Pacific Dining because the company is at fault for the lack of food variety.

Pacific Dining’s mission statement states the company caters to over one million customers yearly, including campus communities at Los Angeles Valley College, East Los Angeles College and West Los Angeles College, in addition to El Camino.

In contrast to El Camino College, Compton College’s food programs offer students a free meal daily and a wider variety of options through a deal with EveryTable food service.

Similar to Compton College, Los Angeles City College offers fresh-and-free fruits, vegetables, beverages and snacks to all registered students through a community-funded program called “Food for Thought.” 

This program shares similarities with El Camino’s Warrior Pantry program, which is also free for all enrolled students.

Another solution to adding variety and affordability to dining options could be accomplished by reestablishing El Camino’s culinary program and creating a student-run restaurant.

The Union understands the combination of bringing back a culinary program and creating student-run restaurants would require a lot of planning and funding by the district but it’s food for thought.

Los Angeles Mission, Los Angeles Trade-Technical, Los Angeles Harbor and Long Beach City College all have on-campus restaurants that are run by student chefs from their culinary programs. 

According to Long Beach City College’s website, instructors for the culinary program consist of industry professionals that update the curriculum and restaurant menus to keep up with current trends.

El Camino College officials should take both the successes and failures that other local community colleges encountered with their campus restaurants. By prioritizing variety and affordability, El Camino College can make its restaurants more appealing to the campus community.