By Carolyn Mathis
College students are either on a time crunch or in a financial bind – or sometimes both. Thankfully, Grand Rapids Community College offers options that are both affordable and easily accessible. But how do they taste?
I got the idea a few months ago when someone told me that some of the vending machines at GRCC offer more than just the basic chips option. I even noticed that someone in my advertising class was eating a sandwich from Blimpie he said he got from one of the vending machines.
I grabbed my friend, Molly Mills, from The Collegiate to check out the questionable items with me. Mills is vegetarian, so we wanted to see what options the vending machines had for her and possibly anyone else with dietary restrictions. I, on the other hand, will eat pretty much anything.
My initial expectations of the food was that I thought it would probably be gross. I had heard of burgers in the machine, so I was hoping there would be at least a burger option since I’d never seen a burger in a vending machine before. I wasn’t very optimistic about this. I kind of figured the food wouldn’t taste good and would offer options like egg salad.
We took a walk to the vending machine on the fourth floor of the Main Building, across from Lake Michigan Credit Union. Inside the refrigerated vending machine, were basically sandwich options. There was a burger, Italian Club from Blimpie, breakfast sandwich and other easy-to-eat options.
I purchased the Italian Club from Blimpie for $3.25 and a Fast Choice Double Beef Stacker for $2.50. Mills bought a Stefano Rip-n-Dip pizza ring for $3.25 – this was the only vegetarian option we saw. The burger had to be microwaved for 45 seconds and the pizza had to be microwaved for a minute. I was a bit nervous that a burger could cook in 45 seconds considering it takes popcorn about two minutes to cook. Under the microwave, conveniently located next to the vending machines, there was ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise packets which I took for the burger.
We took our food back to The Collegiate office for a taste test. The burger smelled sort of like paper and it was pretty squishy feeling. I took an ‘unbiased’ bite without any condiments to get the unfiltered taste of the burger. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t awful. The double beef stacker was just that – two, what I’m hoping was beef, patties sandwiched between buns and cheese. There was also a bun in the middle, similar to a McDonald’s Big Mac. The bun in the middle was incredibly soggy. I tried it again with ketchup and mayonnaise and it didn’t taste much better.
The pizza Mills bought could have been better if it was cooked in the oven. “The texture for sure wasn’t the best but the taste made up for that,” she said. “Microwaving is the only cooking option, and I think that’s why (it tasted) mediocre.”
The pizza did come with some marinara dipping sauce, but the texture was quite doughy and almost a rubbery consistency. The sauce was an added bonus.
I liked the Italian Club from Blimpie better than the burger. When I heard that there were Blimpie subs inside the machine, I thought it was just the sandwich wrapped in what it comes in after it’s purchased at the store. The sandwich came wrapped in a Blimpie wrapper inside of sealed plastic which made me more comfortable about eating it. The meat tasted fresh and the bread seemed more safe than the bread on the burger. I put mayo and mustard on the sandwich and it actually tasted pretty good. However, compared to Subway a few flights of stairs away, I would rather have Subway.
Overall, I think the options given are more substantial than the snack-only vending machines. They are more cost-efficient than running down and getting a whole meal from Subway, but I think Subway tastes better and is more filling than the sandwich in the vending machine. But if you can’t wait in line or are strapped for cash, the GRCC vending machines have the hook-up.