Appel dining hall. (Ben Parker / Sun Assistant Photography Editor)

September 18, 2020

The Freshman Dining Hall Experience

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After waiting in line for 30 minutes, I finally enter the dining hall, ready to scan my Cornell ID via the GET app, a process similar to Apple Pay. I then check-in with the worker indicating if I’ve made a reservation or not. A two-step process, made to be simple and efficient, successfully plays its part. Once the dining hall worker checks that I have a reservation, I am yet faced with another line that wraps around the tables used to seat students. This is another 30 minutes of slowly inching forward towards actual food. I am then directed towards line one, two or three, which consist of all the same menu entrees for that day. There are labels on the glass indicating the dish’s name, its ingredients and whether it’s a vegetarian or vegan option.

In the front of each line, there is a mini salad bar with yogurt, salads and fruit options in pre-packaged plastic boxes. I usually get my salad and then proceed to get back in the same line towards the main entrees. There, I point out which dishes I want and the worker will scoop the food into a paper lunch box. Oftentimes it can be difficult to effectively communicate how much of each dish you want through the loud chatter and masks. My patience has definitely grown as the process can be delayed and time costly, but I appreciate how hard the workers try to be efficient and help move the line quickly through by checking in one person after the other.

After I get my food, I walk over to the dessert area, which consists of an assortment of cookies, dessert bars and fruit. At the end of the dining hall stands a beverage station with water, milk and juice in mini plastic cups for students to pick up. Then, I am out the door, marking the end to my daily journey for food. There is dine-in seating, although I have never personally eaten inside. In an allotted area, several tables are spaced out, allowing students to eat their meals without being too close to the line to get food. Even during peak times, there always seems to be a couple of students eating inside.

Unless I start buying food on top of the thousands of dollars I have already spent on my meal plan, there seems to be no choice but to wait close to an hour for lunch and dinner. Is it worth it? No. But is it necessary? Yes. Living on North Campus as a freshman, RPCC and Appel are the two closest options for me. Everyday I make the short walk to one of them and end up being outside for much longer than I’ve anticipated. For both dining halls, it’s no surprise to see lines coming out of the doorway during peak eating hours. These long waits make the trips to dining halls unappealing and burdensome. Many times, students quickly turn around after seeing the line and don’t bother waiting for their food.

Something had to change. After being forced to wait in line after line at each visit with students who barely squeeze three steps between each other, I decided that the only way I would pick up food most efficiently without needing to wait is to go at times where everyone else wasn’t eating. For instance, I will eat lunch early, around 11:30 a.m., or have an early dinner, around 6:00 p.m. I realized that this method had me walking up the stairs and straight into the dining hall without having to stand in line. And ever since my awakening, I’ve kept with this tactic.

This whole process isn’t much fun and is very energy consuming, however, it’s an experience us freshmen will remember till the day we walk into a dining hall free of lines and masks.

Grace Kim is a freshman in Cornell School of Hotel Administration. She can be reached at [email protected].