Despite how it may seem, college students and older adults really aren’t so different. We begin and end adulthood about the same way, especially if our journey includes transitioning to a nursing home. At the dorm or care facility, we are forced to cram all of our belongings into a 12 by six foot space, pay an ungodly amount of money to live there, learn to get along with a new roommate and trade in our home cooking for dining hall food.

Although the tight spaces and shared bathrooms aren’t ideal, one positive quality of dorm life is the food. Curious, I wanted to see if I could say the same about nursing home food. In search of the answer, I decided to visit my local long-term care facility, Prairie Senior Living Complex in Colby, Kansas, to see what nursing home food is all about.


mocha, tea, cappuccino, espresso, milk, coffee
Desiree Schippers

Starting with breakfast, I appeared at the facility bright and early for the most important meal of the day. The first thing I noticed when I entered was the sophisticated, restaurant-like style of the dining rooms. Tables veiled in tasteful tablecloths were set with goblets and silverware wrapped in a crisp cloth napkin. The building is nestled among cornfields, and the dining room windows overlook several acres of the crop, creating a peaceful backdrop for diners. From my seat I could smell the rich scent of sausage and bacon. By that time, the first of my tablemates entered the room and settled in next to me with a cup of coffee.

People say Millennials are the generation that’s obsessed with coffee, but from this experience I can say that Traditionalists and Baby Boomers go hard when it comes to caffeine; one sip of their coffee was so strong that it almost knocked me out of my chair. Regardless, the residents were drinking it black.

While talking over our breakfast of buttery biscuits and sausage gravy, the man next to me informed me that he drinks nothing shy of seven cups of coffee in a day, which put my finals-week coffee binge record to shame. Luckily for me, the kitchen provided a wide variety of other drink options, such as: French vanilla cappuccinos, lemonade, iced and hot tea, milk, hot chocolate, soft drinks from root beer to lemon lime soda and any kind of juice I could imagine.


hamburger, bun, cheese, lettuce, bacon
Desiree Schippers

At lunch, I learned more about growing corn in 30 minutes than I ever have in my 19 years of living in Kansas. Retired farmers and farm wives told me of the days when times were difficult enough that they made salads out of dandelion and had rabbit drives to feed their families.

The conversation was pleasantly interrupted when a dietary aide presented us with king-sized bacon cheeseburgers, topped with lettuce and juicy tomatoes. The burger was accompanied by our choice of fresh fruit (I opted for strawberries) and sweet potato tots. Although I’m not usually one for meat, I polished off the whole burger, an impressive feat for me and a compliment to the chef. Uplifting and pleasant, the hearty meal and discussion made for a wonderful afternoon.


dairy product, chocolate, butter, sweet, milk, cream
Desiree Schippers

At 2 p.m., the snack cart started rolling down the halls, and as if I hadn’t voraciously devoured a meal already, I was drooling at the options. The cart was overflowing with treats such as cookies, cereal bars, oatmeal pies, full-sized candy bars, banana bread, cookies, cheeses, yogurt, rice crispy treats and much more. On top of this, residents have full access to a soft serve ice cream machine 24 hours a day.

For residents who prefer salty snacks, there is a fully loaded popcorn machine that doesn’t force the whole building out of bed at 3 a.m. by setting off the smoke alarms. All snacks are available to residents whenever they feel hungry, but the snack cart makes its rounds about three times per day. I can definitely say that I will be daydreaming about the snack cart as I raid the dorm vending machine.


meat, pork
Desiree Schippers

By suppertime, I was still feeling stuffed from lunch and the snack, but Prairie Senior is a magical place where weight loss is considered a health concern and is subsequently frowned upon. Here, the “freshman fifteen” would be applauded and maybe even encouraged. It’s quite beautiful.

Dinner consisted of pork fried rice and mixed vegetables, served with wontons and sweet and sour sauce. It wasn’t Panda Express, but it was still an enjoyable meal. Before I was served, I was reminded that residents can order off of the kitchen menu at any time, and that breakfast foods are served all day upon request. Additionally, there is always a soup and sandwich of the day available for residents looking for a lighter meal.

In general, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of nursing home food. On top of their usual meals, residents told me about many different dining activities that they partake in, such as monthly dining outings where they go as a group and eat at a restaurant around town, or wine and cheese tasting parties. More than anything, I was impressed by the variety and many different options the residents have for food.

I can easily say that residents have it just as great or even better than college students when it comes to dining hall food. I feel like I was able to connect with and learn from the residents, and several of them told me it made their day. So, if you’re ever feeling homesick, hungry, or both, I recommend heading to your local nursing home and testing the food out for yourself.