When it comes to the quality of day-to-day student life perhaps no organization is as important, or as misunderstood, as the Faculty Student Association of Fredonia, also known as FSA.
“I think the biggest misunderstanding is that many people think that FSA is a separate, for-profit corporation,” said FSA Executive Director Darin Schulz. “There’s a lot of food service companies out there that perform food services for colleges that have shareholders and make a profit, and we’re not one of those. We are a not-for-profit corporation that is set up outside the university, but our sole purpose is to service the university, and all money that we make stays on campus.”
Due to its status as a not-for-profit, FSA winds up contributing over a million dollars to Fredonia’s campus every year, with the rest going to pay the cost of daily operations.
“Some of that is for space, utilities and rent, but the vast majority of it goes to student programming, academic programming and some special accounts that fund specific student activities,” said Schulz.
Still, many students have a strenuous relationship with FSA, especially students without meal plans that try to cook at home to save money.
“It hurts me when I forget to bring my lunch, and I have to buy food on campus,” said senior English major Mackenzie Peake.
To understand why FSA’s prices are what they are, it helps to take a look at the packaged PB&J sandwiches they make, which are much-maligned for their expensive cost.
“Of course things like PB&J sandwiches are really, really cheap to make if you go to the store and buy the peanut butter, buy the jelly and buy the bread,” said Schulz. “With our sandwiches though, we want to make sure that we prepare it in a high quality way, especially if it constitutes a full meal for some students. We use wheat berry bread, which is significantly more expensive than a standard slice of bread. We also need to pay for labor to make the sandwich, to package the sandwich and then to sell the sandwich. There’s all of these costs that go into making a sandwich, and there’s a lot of hidden costs that go into providing food service.”
All of FSA’s sandwiches, wraps and baked good are made fresh daily at the campus’ commissary, which is outfitted with a full bakery and packaging system manned by FSA employees. As for campus locations like Tim Hortons and Starbucks, the food is either pre-packed or made at those locations, which are also owned by FSA.
“We also can purchase franchises, so we own the rights to Tim Hortons and Starbucks,” said Schulz. “The downside of that is that we need to pay a royalty fee, so when we compare Tim Hortons to Cranston, it’s a little more expensive to operate because we need to pay part of every dollar earned in royalties.”
Many students express aggravation over the prices in the C-Store, with many chips, candies and snacks having much higher prices than they would at comparable retail stores, but the prices seem to be the result of the economics of scale that FSA is forced to work with.
“We don’t have the buying power of Wegmans or Tops or Walmart,” said Schulz. “They buy in the billions and we buy in the thousands, so the price that we pay for that product is nowhere near as competitive, nowhere near, not even close, as what they can pay for the product. Sometimes we wind up having to pay more for a product than, say, what Walmart can charge for on their shelf. There has to be a markup because, when we allow meal plans to be used to buy some of these items, what that does is sends a lot of money to ‘bad margin’ goods where our margin of profit is extremely small.”
Out of the 15 members that sit on the FSA board, seven are students, but Schulz has plans to create a separate ‘Food Services Advisory Committee’ to elicit feedback from a wide array of students to make sure that FSA continues to service the campus community the best that it can.
“First and foremost we want to take a good look at what our current offerings are and how we could possibly improve that. If there are things that aren’t favorites, or things we could modify our menus with, that’s something we’d like to accomplish,” said Schulz. “I’m looking for a broad spectrum of students ranging from underclassmen to upperclassmen. We’re looking for students that live on campus, as well as students that live off campus. We really want to hear from everybody to make sure we’re doing right by the students, both now and in the future.”
Students interested in joining or learning more about the Advisory Committee are encouraged to either email Schulz directly, or to contact FSA through its website at fsa.fredonia.edu.