Sweetgreen: Leaf us alone

If it’s not hot, it’s not food

Monday sees the official opening of sweetgreen [sic: the lowercase is meant to make it seem cool and edgy because it’s 2006] on 116th and Broadway, the chunk of prime real estate home to the erstwhile Uni Cafe.

Food security and gentrification are prominent issues facing Columbia, but you wouldn’t know it from the way the university consistently favors joints like sweetgreen when renting out its plentiful land.

When people are writing to Columbia Class Confessions about eating their shoes, it’s really evident that what we need now is another hot locale where you can buy $16 rabbit food.


Lines down the chopping block

Of course, sweetgreen is really dedicated to affordable healthy food and responsible capitalism, which is why proceeds from this branch are, somehow, going towards healthy school meals for kids in Harlem (aaw!) and rewarding local farmers whose goods are landing up on sweetgreen’s one lonely table.

“You too can eat healthily and affordably!” says sweetgreen to its less well-heeled constituents. As long as you’re back at the school uptown or on the farm where you belong.

But there’s one thing that we’re not talking about in this conversation, and that’s the premise that sweetgreen is built on: the fundamental principle of sweetgreen is that we actually want to eat salad. That salad is somehow a one-stop sustenance shop. (And to those of you who are going to point out that there’s soup: soup is just the salad of hot food.)

I hate salad, and so should you. I think it’s unreasonable to expect college students who are working hard, probably didn’t sleep and are cold for the majority of the year here to subsist on leaves.

If it’s not hot, it’s not food.

At least you can get a slab of steak at god-awful Dig Inn, and they even cut it up for you like mama used to do. My mother never tried to feed me an “Earth Bowl“, because I would have been malnourished. Probably.

I swear to God, if I have to go to another seminar or meeting where some girl is munching sheepishly away at a plastic container of rabbit food.

And why is it always a girl?

Why is food now something we “get” or “grab” and never seem to actually eat. It’s all about pretending that you don’t actually consume anything: you get your food furtively, alone, you don’t stick around at the deli or the cafe or the sweetgreen to sit down and eat it. You sneak it past security guards at Butler like a concealed weapon. Anything that isn’t compact, odorless and cold draws suspicious attention to the fact that you’re eating. And you better not make any chewing noises while you’re at it.



It’s an unspoken ideology, where food is something only occasionally allowed to get between you and your productivity. It’s cold and lonely out there, with the $13 takeaway salad.

At least you can tell yourself you’re being “healthy”. There’s nothing healthy about having your first meal of the day be a tiny bowl of mostly air intercut with leaves consumed at a 4pm class, but it’s a useful euphemism for low-calorie. That’s why sweetgreen’s website lists the calories of everything, and the prices of nothing.

As the “Our Story” section tells you, ‘sweetgreen is a destination for delicious [sic] food that’s both healthy [sic] for you and aligned with your values.’ Values that are absolutely anti-food.

Columbia University Columbia food health sweetgreen The Tab