Being the stereotypical Taurus I am, I love food. It has less to do with quantity than the memories that come with a meal. With Duke consistently being revered for its campus dining, there’s plenty to remember.
I started tracking my food point spending at the end of my first semester because I wanted to see where I ordered from the most. Did I spend as much time at The Loop as my friends said? A review of my account and board transactions on the DukeCard website answered this question and more.
The data doesn’t show what I bought or what I was doing when I made the purchase, and it also includes times when I bought food for others. Still, the data is like a time capsule, showcasing both my habits and how Duke Dining has evolved over the years.
First year (2019-2020): Plan I
As my friends pointed out, I did spend a lot of money at The Loop — $240.33 over the year, in fact — but the restaurant I visited most was McDonald’s. I went there so frequently that I knew my regular order of six McNuggets and a large fry cost $6 even. As of March 20, that same combo now costs $8.90, according to Mobile Order.
If we include non-eateries, then the vending machine on the first floor of Pegram was my most visited place. I often grabbed a bite on the way to my 8:30 a.m. classes and took breaks from working in the common room to get snacks. Overall, I went to that vending machine 81 times and spent $102.85 there.
Such spending might not have been possible in earlier years; fall 2019 was the first semester that East Campus residents received $860 in food points, an increase from the previous maximum of $545.
First-years receive smaller dining plans because they are given board swipes for Marketplace, and I used mine quite a bit. I swiped into Marketplace breakfast 45 times and Marketplace dinner 70 times from August 2019 to March 2020. I also used breakfast equivalency twice and dinner equivalency six times.
Notably, both times I used breakfast equivalency I went over the allotted amount and had to pay extra. One of those times, I remember the woman behind the Marketplace register asked me to guess how much I had gone over — the answer was 14 cents, paid on Feb. 3, 2020 at 1:23 p.m.
Marketplace wasn’t always an option, though. I remember returning to campus the first day the dorms reopened after winter break, only to learn that Marketplace was still closed. The buses were arriving every 20 minutes or so, and I remember how my bowl of Il Forno spaghetti and meatballs warmed my hands as I shivered at the bus stop. Il Forno was the first campus restaurant I tried as a pfrosh, and this moment was a reminder of the comfort it brought me.
Over half of my food account transactions were between noon and 5 p.m., which seems to correlate with the times my classes began and ended. On days when I had free time, I’d sometimes stock up on snacks at the East Campus store; I had 13 transactions there throughout the year and spent $308.72 total.
My last meal before spring break was a small pizza from The Loop, which I ate in a friend’s room while celebrating another friend’s birthday.
Total food points spent: $1,171.60
Sophomore year (2020-2021): Plan A
Moving to West Campus meant expanding my palate. Most mornings, I ordered a cinnamon raisin bagel with cream cheese and sausage from Au Bon Pain, but I also tried Sprout and Pitchforks for the first time. I also learned about the existence of GoBringIt and the fact that you could order Mad Hatter cakes to be delivered at Cafe.
There were more restaurants available on Mobile Order this year due to pandemic precautions, whereas in my first year I had only used it to order from The Loop. Speaking of which, The Loop took the top spot for dollars spent in sophomore year, comprising 27% of my spending.
While the pandemic in some ways made dining easier, it also made it harder. Dining hours were limited, and the academic calendar was compressed. I often found myself absorbed in work until it was too late to get dinner because every eatery had closed. This resulted in a lot of late-night transactions at the vending machines in Crowell BB. Out of 136 transactions at the snack and drink machines, 99 (72.8%) were between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m. Vending machine transactions also comprised 88% of my transactions at night.
Total food points spent: $4,574.56
Junior year (2021-2022): Plan A
The year began with me mourning the loss of Au Bon Pain, which was replaced with Panera Bread in May. The lack of Mobile Order for Panera influenced how frequently I ordered from there — 20 transactions for the year versus 72 at Au Bon Pain the year prior. I also ordered from Pitchforks more often since it was the closest eatery to where I lived in Keohane Quad, and I ended up spending a total of $1,782.92 there for the year.
As managing editor of The Chronicle’s 117th volume, I spent a lot of time in our office in Flowers Building, and I often visited the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture on the first floor before heading upstairs. This is reflected in my spending; I spent $50.65 at the vending machines there. I also frequently stocked up on snacks at the Lobby Shop, spending $316.35 over the course of the year.
What I remember most about my junior year meals is that they were often shared. In October, I met a peer at the Fuqua cafeteria for lunch. A month later, I bought peppermint tea from Beyu Blue and went on a walk with someone I was catching up with. In the spring, I split dessert with someone at the Nasher Cafe. These memories made the cost immaterial.
Total food points spent: $4,958.29
Senior fall (2022): Plan A
I moved in a few days early to rehearse for Hoof ‘n’ Horn’s orientation cabaret and quickly adopted a habit of ordering a smoothie, milkshake or McDonald’s slushie once a day. I also began to order GoBringIt more frequently, which included additional costs for delivery and tips. In total, I spent $347.54 at GoBringIt restaurants.
The expenses added up quickly; by mid-October, my balance was $800 when I should have started the week with $1,400 per the University’s food point chart. I was fortunate to receive an additional $300 in food points from the Karsh Office of Financial Support that same month.
Red Mango joined my repertoire of restaurants for the first time, and I frequently stopped by for breakfast or lunch, spending a total of $229.54 there. Pitchforks and Bella Union also remained staples, with The Loop coming in third for number of transactions. Like junior year, I often took advantage of mealtimes to connect with people.
I eventually ran out of food points right before Thanksgiving break. After giving funds to Feed Every Devil two semesters in a row, I turned to the program myself — the $50 I received lasted about two days. From the end of November through finals week, I had to sustain myself on Flex. By the end of those three weeks, I had used $535.08 out of my Flex to pay for meals.
That being said, I don’t regret upgrading to Plan B for my final semester this spring.
Total food points spent: $3,674.18 and counting
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.
Nadia Bey, Trinity '23, was managing editor for The Chronicle's 117th volume and digital strategy director for Volume 118.