When Min-ji Seo arrived to Northern Kentucky University from South Korea last December, she expected to experience some culture shock. But the lack of dining options on campus put her in, what she felt to be, a non-negotiable situation.
“I canceled my meal plan as fall semester began because it does not match my diet at all,” Seo said.
Seo said she finds the food choices unhealthy. “I have gained weight, approximately 30 pounds, after arriving on campus. I think American food is high in fat, sugar and salt.”
To meet her dietary needs and to maintain healthy eating habits, Seo began with trips to the grocery store. “Kroger in front of Callahan has a section for international food, but it is limited,” she said. “There is one Korean store in Montgomery, Ohio, but it is hard to reach without a car. So as an alternative, I shop online.”
She orders food online from a Korean grocery called H-mart. The store delivers to any street address within the 48 contiguous United States, she said.
Seo is not the only international student to cancel a meal plan or prepare her own meals; there are many international students dissatisfied with the on-campus food options.
According to Mohab Tawila, a junior from Egypt and a student specialist at the Office of International Students and Scholars, about 500 international students from 69 countries attend NKU.
“I used to have the meal plan just because it is convenient, but the quality of the food at campus dining halls is poor,” Tawila said. “Since I live off campus, I do not need to have the meal plan anymore. I am a terrible cook, so I eat out every day.”
“I miss Egyptian food, but there is nowhere to find Egyptian food around Cincinnati,” Tawila said. Like Seo, he said that there is a need for the NKU meal plan to offer more options.
Melissa Pompa, resident district manager for NKU Dining, said her office is attempting to address this need with a new eatery in the Student Union called Whole+Sum. Each week, Whole+Sum offers menu choices from different places in the world. Pompa said there are at least nine different options each day, and the menu changes every four weeks.
As the number of international students grows, additional plans for dining changes are in the works.
She said she wants to incorporate the students’ voices on NKU’s search to better serve the international students.