Opinion: Uncovering the truth behind food prices on campus and its nearby competitors

Taya Thornton | The Arbiter

Welcome to Boise State University: home of the $11 box of Lucky Charms cereal. 

Meal plans at Boise State are already unreasonably priced, which can increase food insecurity and make it difficult for students to maintain a stable eating schedule. 

Sure, there are meal credits and Dining Dollars associated with each meal plan that can aid students in eating food that isn’t in the campus cafeterias. However, these extra benefits are not substantial in the long run.

Market Boise is located in the heart of campus in the Student Union Building (SUB) and offers a wide variety of food options for students to purchase. This food, however, is notoriously expensive. 

When compared to other markets or grocery stores around campus, it’s almost humorous to see the price point average of each food item they sell. 

I took a survey of various foods around the market and noted their individual prices. I also visited the Albertsons on Broadway to compare. This is what I found:

A standard can of Pringles Potato Crisps at the Boise Market is sold for $3.99. At Albertsons, they had a sale for three cans for $5.00 or $2.69 individually. 

A box of gluten free Barilla penne pasta at the Boise Market costs $4.99. At Albertsons, it is being sold for $2.49. 

A bottle of Hershey’s chocolate syrup costs $5.99 on campus and at Albertsons, it costs $2.89. 

A microwave dinner from Velveeta at the market goes for $9.99, and the same one at Albertsons costs $3.89.

Now, for the most infamous Boise Market item, which was recently taken off the shelves: the standard box of Lucky Charms cereal. Coming in at a hot $10.99 at the Boise Market, the same size box of cereal costs $5.39 at Albertsons. Even better, the family size box of Lucky Charms at Albertsons costs $6.99, even less than the smaller box on campus. 

The total for these five items at the Boise Market would cost a student about $36.00 before tax. At Albertsons, the same five items would cost about $18.00 before tax. That’s almost exactly half for the same items. 

I was a freshman once. I understand the midnight cravings and wanting to buy snacks from the dorm markets using my Dining Dollars. However, when this craving becomes a routine, it becomes expensive. 

Yes, each student, depending on their chosen meal plans, has Dining Dollars. But there are many other dining options like Chick-fil-a or Starbucks that may provide more sustenance for students on the go. Plus, these Dining Dollars can only be stretched so far on a weekly basis. 

[Students browse food options at Market Boise, located in the Student Union Building.]
Taya Thornton | The Arbiter

Meal plans include Dining Dollars, but for individual Dining Dollars, the price is much different. The cheapest Dining Dollar plan is $95 for $100 worth of credit. With the items I surveyed above, that’s equivalent to about three trips to the market, if a student buys items within these price ranges. 

The most expensive Dining Dollars plan is $915, but you receive $1,000 dollars worth of credit. No meal plan includes that many Dining Dollars, but then again, who will live off of $1,000 of Dining Dollars alone throughout the whole semester?

All in all, food on campus is expensive. For those who do not have jobs and rely solely on the pre-paid meal plans, their options become slim and often mundane as the semester goes on. 

Thankfully, there are alternatives to the expensive food prices at Boise State, and they are closer than most students think. To start, Albertsons is a 15-20 minute walk from campus. If you are looking for something closer, the Campus Food Pantry is a perfect resource to grab a few grocery items at no cost. 

Meal planning shouldn’t be dreaded and finding affordable food should not be an issue for students, especially post-pandemic. However, it’s the truth we face every day. Food insecurity is a real issue, but there are resources to beat this issue at the epicenter. 

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