Two days ago I spent the morning with a University of Virginia student who is the key player in a faculty-student committee to propose a farm incubator on a 500-acre estate bequeathed to the University.
That's not what this is about. I did wish her well, gave her some advice, and offered only a 20 percent chance of success. The entrenched bureaucracy is well-heeled and still has a condescending view of anyone who would dare get their hands dirty in the soil. I expect she and her cohorts will learn why entrepreneurs do not run business by committee.
What was stunning to me was that in her research she discovered that the UVA budget per plate for the student meal plan is $12.50. UVA is a non-profit.
At our farm, we have a well-paid summer chef who cooks the evening meal for the 25 of us who live on site May 1-Sept. 30, the height of the season. We put all our farm food in at fair wholesale prices and when we buy things to supplement our own production, we don't buy cheap. We keep a tight tab on our per plate costs; we are a for-profit enterprise and have to watch such things. Realize that our crew eats nearly twice as much as the average person because we're working off lots of calories.
Our per plate cost hovers right at $10.
I'm sure Aramark, which has the dining services contract for UVA, and the board of trustees, could offer some great reasons why their per plate cost is $12.50 even though the food is junk. I don't need to hear all the excuses. I guarantee the amount of fluff in that cost is obscene, and the students are beginning to realize it.
Thomas Jefferson would be excited to know that the UVA students may create a revolution for decent food at such an expensive price.
Where do you think the fluff lies?