When stuck inside with nowhere else to go, food may be the only exciting part to a student’s day. The rush of dopamine and their taste buds return to life when eating vibrant, tasty food can motivate a student to push through another day of quarantine. One opening of the lunchbox could reveal a variety of cuisines ranging from pasta to tofu scramble … at least that’s what students hoped for when picking up their Cornell Dining meals, provided three times a day by the University during students’ mandatory 14-day quarantine upon reaching campus. Instead, one word described the quarantine meals given to students: Repetitive.
As students began to move in on Aug. 17 to begin their 14-day quarantine on campus, they were provided with three free meals each day and were expected to pick them up at the Cornell Dining tents in front of Keaton and Court-Kay-Bauer. Each morning, students were seen carrying their reusable Big Red Bag to pick up meals, which came in cardboard boxes and a plastic bag filled with a variety of snacks such as yogurt, chips and fruit cups.
On the first day of meal pick-up, a student with dietary restrictions said she was initially impressed with how much food she received: “There were a lot of snacks, and I think they were the best parts because you could space those throughout the day.” However, as the days passed, she noticed the meals were becoming repetitive. Some days, she would even receive the same sandwiches or wraps for consecutive meals. Due to her dietary restrictions, she ended up receiving one falafel wrap after another with the occasional sandwich in between. With extra food piling up, she said that she had no choice but to resort to the snacks or order delivery once in a while. “I typically wouldn’t eat the full meal, so I would save things I liked a little bit more and put them in the fridge.” Currently, she has a bag of apples and Lays chips ready to be eaten or given away.
Along with the recurring menu, students also noticed that some sandwiches and fruit cups in their meal boxes were past the expiration date. “I got watermelon one time, and I thought it tasted funny only to realize that it had expired,” one student said. “I’ve had a couple of other items that were past their expiration date too.”
When looking back at the 14-days worth of quarantine meals, the majority of students I spoke with wished there could have been a greater variety of sandwiches and wraps and even some hot meals in between. “I was definitely disappointed, but I also know I was very fortunate to be provided with this much food for free,” another student said. “I’m grateful for everything they’ve given us, but I wish there were more options.”
Students not under quarantine were able to access the recently opened dining halls under new restrictions and guidelines. According to Cornell Dining’s website, students are now required to RSVP via OpenTable for dine-in and takeout orders to prevent a cluster of students from forming. Furthermore, Cornell Dining has implemented a new contactless pay system where students will use the GET app for meal swipes and BRBs instead of the usual Cornell ID card swiping. To skip the line, students can use the GET order app to place an online order and get their meal directly from the pick-up station.
With strict guidelines such as disinfecting surfaces every 15 minutes and self-service stations under place, Cornell Dining hopes to maintain both student and staff health along with high quality meals as the fall semester begins.
Grace Kim is a freshman in Cornell School of Hotel Administration. She can be reached at email@example.com.