Aramark's Balance station-the brainchild of our conscientious nutritionist Laura O'Gara-has garnered both approving nods from students and some good press in The Wall Street Journal. The positive reaction led the foodservice giant to begin marketing similar nutrition-conscious programs to other universities. While we're thankful for these healthy dining options, students craving such sustenance are often left to choose between an empty stomach and an empty wallet.The addition of nutritious options is commendable. Balance offers healthy dishes, but it is only a small oasis among myriad unhealthful menus.

Much of the Aramark bill of fare is laden with oil-drenched, hastily prepared fast food. A cursory reading of Aramark's nutritional information reveals that a majority of the dishes are high in cholesterol, sodium and saturated fats.

When students elect to forego the underwhelming dining halls, they find that the Expressway, or C-Store, is stocked almost entirely with snack food and fattening microwave dinners.

Worse than the irresponsible cuisine might be the high prices Aramark demands for its services. Prices have risen so drastically in the last year that many students find that their meal plans do not last through a semester. It is deplorable to even think a student cannot afford complete nourishment throughout the day.

Consider a typical day's intake. After a breakfast of a small coffee, oatmeal and eight ounces of milk and a lunch and dinner both consisting of a Balance plate, small soft drink and a piece of fruit, a student has paid more than $17 for food in one day. Specifically, a Balance plate costs $4.99, a soft drink costs $1.15 and a piece of fruit costs 99 cents. The absurd pricing extends to sandwich toppings-an extra slice of cheese on a sandwich costs 39 cents. With these Oe la carte prices, it his hardly surprising that many students use their entire allotments of meals or dining points before a semester is complete.

Subscription to a meal plan is compulsory for all students with the small exception of residents of the Foster Mods, the Charles River apartments and Ridgewood Quad. The price of meal plans, especially the All-Points Plan, is especially contemptible. For the sum of $1,900, a student receives only 1,300 points, each equivalent to one dollar, per semester. This calculates to one point costing slightly less than $1.50
More upsetting about Aramark's pricing scheme is the double markup of items. At the C-Store, items are on sale for far more than they would be at a conventional grocery store. A container of yogurt that typically sells for 69 cents is listed at 99 cents in the C-Store. This results in the container of yogurt costing more than double its standard price.
It is not unreasonable for Aramark to require a service fee, but $600 from each student merits some visible improvements in service, efficiency and most importantly, quality of food.

Aramark blames most of its problems on rising costs, especially on meat, but this does not account for steady increases in the prices of fruits, vegetables and vegetarian dishes. This smacks more of corporate fleecing than it does of jitters in the agricultural market.

Despite these complaints, Aramark still holds a monopoly over campus dining. Mandatory participation in meal plans should foster transparency in the company. If Aramark showed more dedication to improving its services instead of just its profit margins, it might not be the reviled entity it is today.

At a time when public trust in large corporations is waning, it would be wise for Aramark to heed its customers' gripes. If Brandeis students are made to pay the substantial cost of a meal plan, then Aramark must make good nutrition not only accessible, but also affordable.