Students lining up at the Starbucks on the 2nd floor Photo Credit: Shanae Harte
By Shanae Harte
After several months of shutdown, the Cardinal Cafe officially reopened on Feb. 18 with MBJ Cafeteria Corporation as the new vendor.
The cafe had shut down last year on Sept. 30 after the college’s contract with Aladdin Food Services, York’s main food supplier expired and was not renewed. The campus cafeteria closed in June 2019 due to contract expiration and was prevented from reopening after multiple health code violations were assessed in September 2019.
As a partial remedy, the college secured sporadic agreements with food truck vendors to be available on Guy R Brewer Blvd to expand eating options. The food trucks, though inconsistent with time and days, provided the campus with an assortment of breakfast and lunch food options for purchase every week from Monday to Friday.
Adding insult to the injury, prices on all the items in the campus vending machines were jacked up. The inconsistency created food insecurity for some students.
“I was eating the food at the college because I didn’t have time to eat at home, so the café was useful,” said Jessica Timtshouk, 18, a Nursing Major. “I skip some meals because I can’t really eat in the mornings, so when I would come to the college, I would go to the cafeteria and eat what they had, but now, it’s not there.”
Over the course of the winter break, renovations were made to redesign the cafe space and accommodate the new vendor. According to Ismael Perez, the Assistant Vice President for Planning and Budgeting, the contract for the new vendor will run through May 29, 2020 and it could be extended through mutual agreement of both parties.
Perez also said that the cafeteria will not be opening at this time as the City University of New York continues its search for a university-wide vendor. CUNY, in April 2018, initiated a process to find a single vendor that will provide food services throughout the university or to identify several vendors which will each serve multiple campuses.
“Once a vendor is chosen, the process to re-open the cafeteria could begin,” Perez said. At this time there is no timetable for that process.”
Rohanie Salaimain, an Accounting major at York, believes that having the café re-opened is going to be very convenient for the student and faculty body. Before the reopening, Salaiman usually walks two blocks to Jamaica Avenue to nearby restaurants for food. Now, she is content with the fact that she is able to purchase at least a bagel without leaving campus grounds.
“I think it will be convenient not just for me, but for other students,” said Salaiman, 22. “I think this is a great opportunity because students wouldn’t have to go too far just to get a little something to drink.”
The cafe at the moment offers a small variety of cold sandwiches, pastries, fruits, and coffee. For hot meals, the college community will still have to rely on food trucks or nearby restaurants. It is a question whether food trucks, given their inconsistent presence near campus grounds, will continue to show up especially after the cafe re-opening.
“The college has no formal agreement with the food trucks and does not control their schedule,” Perez said. “It is our understanding that some food trucks made their return to campus on Feb. 5 and will continue to return as they deem appropriate.”
The soft opening of the cafe on Feb.13 was received with excitement as the line grew quickly.
“I’m excited because the cafeteria downstairs is not working so this is our source of food- instead of having to go outside,” said Ashley Vinson, a Biology major.
Though there is excitement about the re-opening, many people remain demoralized about the fact that the campus lacks a proper cafeteria.
“I’m definitely happy because I used to have to walk 5 to 10 minutes to find something to eat around here,” said John Kang, 23, Music Major said. “It’s just super convenient when the food is in school because you’re never late for your classes. I don’t know if the cafeteria downstairs is open as yet but they need to open that too.”