By Chris Meng ‘23
When visiting a college, you hear about academics, housing, and student life, but there’s a significant part of the college experience that doesn’t get the time it deserves — food. Between the 19 meals per week offered at The Claremont Colleges, I probably spend a good 15 hours in the dining halls each week. That’s more time than I spend in class! So, it’s important to ask: what is dining like at Pomona College?
To start, because of the consortium, all Claremont students have access to the seven dining halls across the five campuses, in addition to the student-run cafés like the Coop Fountain at Pomona, The Motley Coffeehouse at Scripps, and The Hub at CMC. For a small liberal arts college of around 1600 students, the variety of food options is astounding, and something that should not be taken lightly. Students who live on-campus are obligated to be on a meal plan. If you’re like me, it’s easy to get tired of eating the same food at the same place every day. However, that’s not a problem when you have seven dining halls; the struggle becomes deciding which dining hall to eat at every night. It won’t be long before you become familiar with the most popular meals at each dining hall: Pitzer pad thai, Frank brunch, and Scripps acai bowls to name a few.
Along with the usual meal swipes, Claremont students also receive either $160 or $240 in “flex” that can be used at the dining halls or any of the aforementioned student-run cafés. Pomona also has several popular student-run organizations that you can use your flex at such as Milk and Honey, which serves boba, and Claremont Challah. If you need a late-night bite, the Coop Store is there to serve your needs. It’s no wonder that flex is a precious commodity, especially by the end of the semester.
Luckily, Snack is a late-night study break tradition that doesn’t require flex, where you can grab a bite to eat and catch up with friends with a flash of your student ID. The social aspect of Snack is what I want to emphasize about dining here at Pomona. Going to the dining hall is so much more than consuming food to sustain yourself (though that is very important, too!). There is a strong meal culture at Pomona that makes for an incredibly vibrant social experience.
As all Pomona first-years live on South Campus, Frank Dining Hall is by far the closest place to eat. With its homey, comfortable vibe, Frank is home to many intimate conversations, budding friendships, and unexpected run-ins because of the South Campus community. While it is common to make plans with a friend or group of people for a meal, it is just as common to enter the dining hall alone and end up eating a meal with somebody that you know from class, Orientation Adventure, or one of many student groups on campus. Meal culture is not limited to interactions between students either. Professors and other staff members are given meal swipes specifically so they can dine with students. For example, I attended an interesting talk given by the Pitzer dean of students. We had a lot in common, so I emailed him and we ended up getting lunch together. It is not at all unusual and, in fact, it is encouraged to grab a meal with your professor.
While meals can be a rewarding social experience, we all need some space to recharge from time to time, and that is where the beauty of the consortium comes in. Every once in awhile, I’ll make the trek up to Pitzer or Harvey Mudd for a nice brunch alone and put in my tunes or watch an episode of whatever TV show I’m bingeing at the time. The consortium allows you to have the flexibility to make Pomona as small or as big of a school as you need it to be.
Finally, all Claremont dining halls offer the option of “green boxing.” When you swipe into the dining hall, you can ask for a take-out container—a green box—so that you can eat wherever you please. Maybe you really need to cram for that midterm tomorrow and want to eat in your room. Maybe you just want to avoid the dining hall crowds and have a nice meal alone. Maybe it’s a gorgeous day in Claremont and you want to eat outside on Marston Quad. The next time you come to the dining hall, you simply return your green box and either ask for another one or eat in the dining hall.
Between the numerous food options and the small college community, being a Pomona student is the best of both worlds when it comes to food. With this indefinite period of social distancing, I miss having meals with friends. You get the variety of food to satisfy your taste buds but combined with the quality of company, that is what makes Pomona dining special.