Hare Krishnas are feeling pinch

Freshmen C.J. Wahl, left, and Leigh Shapiro eat Krishna Lunch on Monday at the Plaza of The Americas.

Published: Tuesday, January 22, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 21, 2008 at 11:53 p.m.

Decreases in Bright Futures, rising gas prices, possible cuts in summer classes and the slow economy are only some of the economic issues University of Florida students have to worry about.

Even cheap meals are not as cheap, including those provided weekdays at UF by Hare Krishna. The prices are "suggested donations" for lunch, but even "suggested donations" can be subject to an increase.

Anghela Paredes, 20, a junior in dietetics at the University of Florida, was surprised when she purchased Krishna lunch for the first time this spring semester.

"I was upset that they changed it (the price), but then I realized it wasn't unreasonable for them to do so," Paredes said.

The rise in price was a response to a survey conducted in the last week of November 2007.

In the survey of 747 Krishna lunch customers, 52 percent of the people said, "Keep things the same and increase the requested single-plate donation to $4, Lunch Card donations to 10 meals for $30, six meals for $20 and three meals for $10," according to Hare Krishna's Web site.

After waiting in the long line to get his lunch, Altan Ozler, 19, was not pleased about the increase in the suggested donation from $3 to $4.

"I wasn't surprised," Ozler said. "I knew there was a possibility that the price would go up because of the surveys they were handing out at the end of last semester."

The next time Ozler, a UF management major, bought Krishna lunch, he made sure to buy the $30 card.

"I thought the increase to $4 was kind of expensive," Ozler said.

Krishna House Director Kalakantha Das said the price was raised because of the increased costs of vegetables, oil, dairy and wheat.

"Food costs have gone up over the last four years," said Das. "But we kept the same prices until recently."

Additional costs to the Krishna lunch include recycled sugarcane plates and cups, as well as forks made from potato starch.

Das said the Krishna House has been trying to create a partnership with a sustainability group on campus. To avoid excessive garbage, the plates and cups would be placed into a digester and the methane gas produced would be recycled.

In order to be more environmentally friendly, Hare Krishna started a new "Quarterback" program. Anyone who provides his or her own dishware (plate, cup and fork) to Krishna lunch will receive 25 cents when they pay or use their card.

"It is all in part to help the environment," Das said.

The high demand for Krishna lunch has increased the amount of goods needed to be purchased. On the busiest day, Wednesday, Krishna serves over 1,000 people, Das said.

"We cook the absolute max we can in our present kitchen," Das said.

The addition of a much-needed second line also increased expenses, including additional staff and servers. Some Krishna lunch servers are volunteers, but others are paid.

"The price increase just covers the bare minimum and does it comfortably," Das said.

The second line is reserved for second helpings or students with meal cards. Students such as Ozler and Paredes are now resorting to purchasing the cards, which are cheaper and help the lines move faster.

"If the lines of Krishna lunch were so long that it would be impossible to get a second plate, I would consider not eating there," Ozler said.

Although students were not happy with the rise in price, students remain loyal to Krishna lunch.

"It's not that bad when it's $4 because you still have the opportunity to get a second helping of lunch," Paredes said. "There are not many places where you can go and be completely satisfied for that price."

Higher prices are not enough to discourage the Krishna lunch crowd.

"It's their decision and product, and I respect their right to make that decision about the price," Ozler said.

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