The fast and the furiously hungry

fast food
Fast food can eat up the contents of students' wallets. (photo by Yung)

By Matt Desrosiers, Kory Brownlee, Derek Drugg, and Nick Parabicoli 

Your stomach is gurgling. You’re so hungry that you could practically eat the person sitting next to you. What do you do? For many students at Fitchburg State University, fast food is the answer to satisfying their poor, sad and empty abdomens even though a full stomach will translate into an empty wallet.
According to the results of a recent on-campus survey, 57 percent of Fitchburg State students eat fast food one or two times per week. This is not a surprising number as fast food is cheap, convenient, and fast; perfect for college students. But, is it really worth it in the end?
About 38 percent of the students surveyed said they spend $11 to $20 on fast food per week. If you multiply this by the 52 weeks in a year, you find out that 38 percent of students are spending $572 to $1,040 on fast food per year.
And while the overall cost is startling by itself, there are also health concerns for those who frequent fast-food restaurants. “I know that it may not be the best option for my body as far as nutrients are concerned” says Perry Russo, a student here at Fitchburg State. “But sometimes it’s the most viable option. I don’t enjoy cooking and later at night the dining hall is closed, so my options are limited.”
However, if you drive down John Fitch Highway, there are plenty of options for the hungry student. Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut are all examples of quick eats that line the highway. But, when surveyed, students were clear in saying that McDonald’s was their favorite place to grab food on the go.
Students were asked which method of consumption they most frequently participate in, the options being home-cooked meals, dining-hall food, or fast food. The majority, at 56 percent, answered home-cooked meals and this makes sense for those living with parents and/or significant others.
Home-cooked meals may seem like they save time, because you do not need to leave the comfort of your home or apartment. However, individuals would have needed to go out and purchase the products prior to cooking them, and they also needed to spend time – and money – preparing and cooking the entrees.
Students constantly bring up the idea that if the dining hall had extended hours, the consumption of fast food would drastically drop. According to the survey, 72 percent  of the students said if Holmes Dining Hall were open later, they would avoid the late night fast food trips. However, this seems to only apply to students living on campus.
The main consensus seems to be that it is a simple case of convenience over quality. While most students enjoy a home-cooked meal or food provided by the dining hall, the occasional fast food trip slips in almost like clockwork during the week.
Shamus Hughes, a Fitchburg State University graduate interviewed after taking the survey, pointed out that “on the drive to and from school, I seemingly stopped on at least one occasion because I didn’t have a meal plan with the school. I needed something to eat and that was a cheap and easy way for me to eat.”
The fast food world is not necessarily “taking over” yet, but it is certainly apparent in many individuals’ everyday lives. Unfortunately, the small cost, quick processing and sodium-ridden addicting taste will continue to keep the public begging for more.