Campus experiences hunger pangs

Only the bookstore sells food, but LMC hopes to expand options.


Katrina Anabo

Student employee Gabriella Kellerman organizes the fridge inside the bookstore.

Katrina Anabo, Staff Writer

With the cafeteria closed and vending machines empty, it is difficult for students and staff  to find a quick meal when they’re hungry. To help nourish those returning to campus as pandemic concerns fade, Los Medanos College provides convenient-store-like food options at the student bookstore in the Student Union.

Vice President Carlos Montoya said the college has a plan to increase options by bringing food trucks on campus and getting the vending machines filled. However, the cafeteria will likely remain closed for now.

LMC’s brand new cafeteria was built inside the Student Union, which was completed in 2020 just before COVID-19 hit so it never officially opened. 

“The old cafeteria [in the College Complex] was closed during the lockdown and the contract with the existing vendor ended June 30, 2020,” said Montoya. 

Since a majority of classes have continued online despite improvements in fighting the Coronavirus, fewer vendors are interested in providing meals on campus because the number of students and staff on campus remains low. As a result, the new cafeteria will stay closed until more classes are scheduled on campus and when LMC finds the best vendor to provide meals for students on campus. 

“If the cafeteria were to be opened, it would be operated by a separate for-profit business and the college,” said Montoya. “We have to solicit interest from local food vendors that would evaluate if operating a food operation on our site is financially feasible and beneficial.”

LMC currently has a vendor, said Montoya, and has requested several times that the vending machines be refilled. 

 “The vending companies have been slow to get back up and running with schools because of the uncertainty of the face-to-face population,” explained Ben Cayabyab, Contra Costa Community College District Contracts Manager. “We are different from their other accounts, such as airports and hospitals, that are operating at nearly full capacity.”

But LMC is now scheduled to have some of the machines running by next week. He reported that the vendor has agreed to “stock the machines that had the highest pre-pandemic traffic to, at least, 50% capacity.”

The LMC bookstore has been filling the food gap by offering a variety of options for students and staff to munch on. It sells an assortment of items such as water, soda, juice, chips, cookies, cake, candy, granola bars, sandwiches, salads and frozen foods to accommodate those who are hungry. Frozen items can be heated in a microwave outside the store on the lower level of the Student Union.

“Everything is within a 50-cent range, and I would say the most expensive food item that we sell would be the salads, which are about $8,” said bookstore supply buyer Andrew Murphy. 

The bookstore purchases food and drinks weekly from multiple vendors, he explained, adding, “We normally place a consistent order and if it gets delivered on Tuesdays, we do our best to put it out as soon as possible.”

But students like first-year student Zoe Manalo, wish there were more food options at LMC.

“I tend to not eat on campus since the food is so limited,” she said. “I normally eat off campus with friends at nearby restaurants.”

To meet the needs of those looking for more than convenience-store items, LMC is looking to expand options by inviting food trucks on campus. 

“We have been working to establish an agreement with local food truck vendors as an alternative,” said Montoya.

The goal is to have food trucks on campus by the fall semester, he said, “but until a contract is signed, I would like to manage expectations.”