By Emily Kim ‘25
As a summer fellow for Pomona’s admissions office, I frequently get asked about dining. “How’s the food?” students ask, followed by the parents’ concerned inquiries: “Will my child go hungry here?”
In response, I reassure the students that the dining options are tasty and plentiful, and the parents that their children will have a variety of dishes to choose from to fill their stomachs and fuel their studying. “As a food columnist for the newspaper [The Student Life], I care about my food, and so I’m telling the truth,” I often add, jokingly.
But while Frank and Frary, Pomona’s two dining halls, each have their specialties (I’m particularly fond of Frank’s cream-cheese-and-lox bagels and the pork bao buns from Frary’s expo station), some of the most pleasurable moments for my taste buds have come from the Coop Fountain and Café 47, as a result of spending my flex dollars.
Every meal plan at Pomona comes with a set amount of flex dollars per semester, or money that can be spent at the Coop Fountain (for all your fast-food needs, but there are healthy options too!), Café 47 (for coffee, tea, or a quick breakfast or lunch), or the Coop Store (for grab-and-go snacks and beverages). Every student here may spend their flex differently: some may space out their flex expenditures throughout the semester, some may spend it all at the beginning and then lovingly ask their friends to fund their late-night cravings, and others may save up their flex and go on a wild spending spree at the end.
Now, I fall into the last category, but not because I intentionally saved up my flex dollars, but because I completely forgot about the Coop Fountain and Café 47 until we were more than halfway through spring semester (I am a creature of habit, so I guess I got into the routine of eating at Frary all the time, since it was right across from my favorite study spot—Lincoln Hall. At least that goes to show that Pomona’s dining halls can stand for themselves!). It wasn’t until I got boba with some friends at Milk & Honey, a student-run boba shop that takes over Café 47 a couple nights a week, that I realized I had quite a bit of flex to last me the rest of the semester.
So for the remainder of the semester, in addition to my trusty yogurt and granola at Frary and my sweet-chili glazed tofu bowl at Frank, I would indulge my taste buds with jasmine milk tea from Milk & Honey, half sweet, light ice. I’d pick up a cappuccino from Café 47 while sleepily walking from Intro to Environmental Geology to my Jane Austen class. I’d grab a crunchy sweet potato wrap from the Coop Fountain before heading to the Asian American Studies lounge in Edmunds to do some evening studying, only to find a friend of mine there who, working on his chemistry senior thesis for the entire day, had not yet had a single meal. Thus back to the Coop Fountain I’d go to pick up some chicken tenders, honey mustard and a Sprite (the best combination) to help him power through his critical analysis section.
I also happily spent my flex dollars on challah nearly every week until the semester’s end, supporting the 5C-wide Claremont Challah club. Every Thursday night after first love’s Exploring Christianity Group, my friends and I would move to the Smith Campus Center to get some studying in, and then eagerly hop in line for some fresh bread. Nothing cured my CS-midterm anxiety quite like a freshly baked loaf of basil-pesto challah, and there was no better way to say “I love you” to a friend than to cover their challah costs as well.
As the semester went on, slowly but surely (my friends and) I used up my flex. Our bellies were pleased with grain bowls from the Coop Fountain, our minds were jolted awake with the caffeine from Café 47’s coffee and Milk & Honey’s milk tea, and Claremont Challah’s fresh bread gave us the tasty motivation we needed to study late into the night.
I remember the last food item that I purchased with my flex. It was the evening after I had finished my environmental geology final—the last exam of my freshmen year. I had ordered a cookies and cream milkshake at the Coop Fountain—my first of the Coop’s milkshakes after having bought so many for my friends in the past. All those times, I just wasn’t in a milkshake mood. But this day was different. I sat down in one of the booths and with the milkshake in one hand and a pen in the other, started writing letters to my friends who were graduating the upcoming weekend.
The milkshake was delicious (it had real cookie pieces mixed in!) and the perfect way to finish off my flex. My heart was full when writing the letters, and so was my stomach as I sipped the last of the vanilla cookie crumble goodness. So, going back to the frequently-asked-question “Will my child go hungry here?”, not only will you not go hungry, but you will be full; you will be satisfied.