Vegetable Prices Bumped Up at Essie Mae’s

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Essie Mae’s has raised prices on select products that have vegetables in them in order to resolve longstanding disparities between the prices of some products, like the grilled veggie melt, and the cost of their underlying ingredients.

“We haven’t increased prices on 90 percent of products in a very long time,” Cash Operations Manager Barbara Boswell said of the increase. “But over the years, the prices have risen substantially for the ingredients that go into the menu,” she continued.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which measures U.S. city’s average price of nine vegetables, does show a significant ten-year price increase in seven out of the nine goods. Peppers, lettuce, and potatoes in particular are about 50 percent more expensive now than in 2005. While the price changes barely touch the majority of menu items at Essie Mae’s—some items, like garden burgers, are actually 25 cents cheaper—seasonal vegetables, the grilled vegetable melt, and mushroom and spinach sides on sandwiches were slapped with significant price increases.

Seasonal vegetables are $3, up from $1.50 last year, the grilled vegetable melt is $4.50, from $3.50, and spinach and mushrooms, which customers used to be able to include in their sandwich as one of three free sides, are now each $1 to add to a sandwich.

Boswell defended the price increases as warranted given not only the ingredient cost increase, but also the labor that goes into preparing vegetables.

“Peppers have to be cut. Everything has to be rotated. Vegetables have to be cooked,” she said. But Boswell reassured that absent “some major crisis,” prices would not go up again. “I am here to make the students as happy as I can,” she added.

Michael Davinroy ’19 said he was not against the price raises if “they really do reflect a price increase of relevant ingredients.” But Harsha Uppili ‘19, noting that Essie Mae’s makes a profit already, labeled the increase “ridiculous.”

“I don’t see why there’s a need for Essie’s to make a profit. Essie’s is not a for-profit restaurant, it’s a dining service at a college,” he added.

While Essie’s does make an “about 10 percent” margin according to Boswell, which gets funneled into the larger school budget, some money also gets infused to Essie’s by the school for renovation, new equipment, and the like, and it is unclear what, given that inlay, the net profit of Essie’s is.

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