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Inflation Hits College Dining Halls With Fewer Menu Options for Students

The pressure of high prices has pushed schools to reduce variety and change ingredients, accelerating existing efforts to reduce food waste. 

A student grabs a slice of pizza at the Clark Kerr dining hall on the University of California at Berkeley campus in Berkeley, California.
A student grabs a slice of pizza at the Clark Kerr dining hall on the University of California at Berkeley campus in Berkeley, California.Photographer: David Odisho/Bloomberg

College students returning to campus this fall will find their dining halls experimenting with everything from fewer salad dressings to “plant-powered” Mondays as schools look for ways to adapt to soaring inflation.

University cafeterias are experiencing many of the same challenges as the wider food service industry, with supply-chain constraints and labor shortages adding costs and operational snags. Their predicament, though, has an added twist: Higher education institutions tend to set tuition, room and board fees months in advance, meaning those rates were often put in place before ingredients became quite so expensive.