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Starving artists… and nurses

Students complain about lack of hot meal options with the closing of Baker Bros.

Art, graphic design and nursing students spend countless hours downtown far away from the cafeteria. For the last several years, many relied on Baker Bros. as the saving grace between them and their hunger.

But, an email right before school resumed announced the downtown coffee and sandwich shop was closing. The email left students with many questions — the biggest of which is how art, graphic design and nursing students will be fed when they are off the main campus during meal times.

So far, the best — and only — option is to get a meal from Pioneer Catering’s meal exchange program. However, that option is available only at lunch time. The University looked into the possibility of providing breakfast items from 8 Sisters Bakery, but decided not to pursue that alternative.

To join Pioneer’s lunch program, students need to sign up and fill out the order form. They can then receive an individualized meal brought to them by a student worker between classes.

“We are more than happy to take care of our students,” said MVNU Food Services Director Austin Swallow.

The program also will cater to students with food allergies/intolerances. Swallow encouraged students to share their nutrition needs with the Pioneer staff.

“They can’t be afraid to communicate with me,” Swallow said. “It is not an imposition. We will take care of you.”

The meal exchange program through Pioneer has been around for a while, and some students are accustomed to using it. But others who used to rely on Baker Bros. are unhappy that the meal exchange program is now the only option outside of buying or packing a lunch of their own.

“I’m angry because I pay for a meal plan, yet I don’t get hot food as if I were on campus,” junior nursing major Kalene Kennedy said. “I can’t help that all my classes are downtown.”

Kennedy and other students wonder when something other than salad and sandwiches will be served.

“It’s okay every once in a while, but it gets old quick,” she said.

Meanwhile, students continue to wonder why Baker Bros. closed in the first place. The shop opened in the fall of 2011 on the first floor of Hunter Hall.

Besides providing lunch, it also served as a favorite spot for students to grab some early morning caffeine or hang out between classes downtown.

The decision to close was a financial one, made by MVNU, not Pioneer. The school was losing around $16,000 a year trying to keep Baker Bros. in operation. Over the last three years, the University covered losses of more than $50,000.

Director of Business Administration Steven Jenkins explained that the University didn’t want to continue pulling money out of student room and board to cover these losses.

The school couldn’t find a “light at the end of the tunnel,” Jenkins said. The only rational thing to do was to close Baker Bros. and look for other entities to fill the space in the future.

“We see potential,” Jenkins said. “There are some people that have expressed an interest,” and the school is in early discussions to start filling the space.

MVNU is searching for someone with experience, who can stand alone in business operations, for the space.

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