At Waterloo Collegiate Institute (WCI), students are lucky that there are so many nearby places to get food during lunchtime. Going into grade 9, I was fortunate enough to dodge the fact that WCI was a non-semestered school the year before I came. I would consider a non-semestered system much more difficult than a semestered system where students only have to focus on 3/4 classes. However with this in mind, WCI being so close to St. Davids creates a high volume of students at popular food locations such as McDonald’s, Tim Hortons, Twice the Deal, Subway, etc. Joint lunches is a double-edged sword in a way where you can always see your friends at lunch but at the same time, the lines for food always seems to be packed.
The options around WCI are endless, but that doesn’t take away the fact that the school also sells food down at the cafeteria. With that said, when I asked students what their opinions were on the cafeteria food, I came to a consensus that it’s actually pretty bad. Grade 12 student Tristan Paarsalu said, “honestly I would rather walk in the cold than buy food from the cafeteria, the pizza is overpriced and I’ve had stomach aches.”
By choice, many students are influenced by their friends that purchase food rather than packing their own lunch. With the convenience of the many lunch options, students that choose to eat out spend a lot of money every week. Packing your own lunch at home is evidently cheaper and most likely healthier compared to a McDonalds or even Freshii! Another grade 12 student named Scott said, “I know I can make my own salad at home which is probably much cheaper and healthier but sometimes I just choose the convenient route.” To come to a conclusion from my experience and peers, if you were to eat out five days of the week, you would be roughly spending $30-50. For the future, I think that choosing to eat out at lunch will be harder to afford due to the minimum wage raises and students only working minimum wage, part-time jobs.
When I interviewed 20 students about whether or not they purchase food or bring their own lunch, 13/20 students admitted to purchasing food 3-5 days out of the week. Popular lunch spots such as McDonalds are benefitting greatly due to the high volumes of students during lunch. From experience, if you aren’t at McDonalds at the beginning of lunch you’ll be waiting a while just to receive your food. Ryan Beach said, “man honestly once it hits lunch time, I’m freaking starving and all I want is to eat, but if I don’t have my car I’ll be waiting at least 10 minutes at Dons!”
Several of the interviewees actually wanted to voice their opinion on where/ what they like to eat during lunch on video however many surprisingly didn’t want to be on video at all. These self-proclaimed “foodies” go by the names of Jacob, Reese, Tristan and Ryan.
Let us go more in-depth into the actual affordability of eating out at lunch. It’s obvious that McDonalds is such a popular restaurant to WCI students due to how close it is to the school but how cheap it is as well, besides that from experience I have a good understanding of prices and how good the food actually is near the school.
Option #1: Conestoga Mall
Pro: A large variety to choose from.
Con: Is fairly close to WCI (roughly 2km) but isn’t practical to walk. Requires a car.
Conestoga Mall has great food options, some healthy options such as “Cultures” but mostly fast food. You’ll be spending roughly $6-$13 per visit here depending on what your meal is but that is the average my peers and I usually spend.
On the healthier side of things, I would definitely recommend the Cultures Bowl from Cultures. Listed at roughly $8/$9 you get a bowl of fresh fruit, vegetables and lean meat, similar to what Freshii offers.
Option #2: University of Waterloo Plaza
Pros: Is pretty close to the school, have to be fast if you want to make it back in time before 11:50, but with a car no problem, so many different places to eat, a lot of student specials.
Cons: No car might be a rush to get back in time for the bell/ 3rd period, other than that, not any other cons.
I can’t really give a certain price range for this location due to how many places there are but I’d give an approximation of $7-$13.
A great place to eat would be Lazeez Shawarma where you can get large portions for a fairly good price, plates with Shawarma meat and rice/fries would be exactly $10 for a regular size.
Option #3: Closet Plaza to WCI (near Laurier)
Pros: Super close, can walk/ drive, plenty of options
Cons: Could have super busy lines
Price Range: $4-$20
Try Thai Express, a tasty Thai restaurant that flame grills in front of you, approximately $11 per portion.
Sonny’s Drive-In (established in 1965, native to Waterloo):
Pros: Great burgers, fries, fish and chips, milkshakes, nice vibe
Cons: May be fairly expensive, takes a while to receive food
10-minute walk from WCI.
Sonny’s is the epitome of a Waterloo classic food spot, which is worth a definite try! I recommend their fish & chips as well as their burgers.
Mel’s Diner (Established in 1995)
Great spot for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Great vibes in the restaurant as well as large portions.
Could be pricey, but it’s affordable.
Specializes in burgers, milkshakes, sandwiches, breakfast, etc.
Located in the UW Food Plaza.
Vincenzo’s (Since 1967)
One of the best sandwich shops in Waterloo in my opinion, always super busy, a grocery store as well.
Plenty of ways you can customize your sandwich like subway, fresh toppings, a lot of different beverages and very much affordable ($5-$8)!
Requires a car at lunch, however off school hours, definitely worth the trip.
Try the ham sandwich on ciabatta bread, you won’t regret it.
Although there are plenty of food options to choose from, after looking at the nutritional values it’s very evident that a lot of the restaurants serve food that contains high amounts of fats, sodium, etc. It’s definitely cheaper to pack your own lunch from home and healthier but if you learn how to balance your spending and limit yourself per week you’ll be okay.