As Cornell prepares for a fall semester with fewer COVID restrictions, Cornell Dining plans to tackle food insecurity and sustainability while accommodating the North Campus expansion.
The new dining features will help reunite the Cornell community, according to Bryan Weintraub ’21, the S.A. chair of the dining services committee.
“The way we are coming out of this year is with a renewed and revamped dining experience that speaks more broadly to the spirit coming out of the pandemic,” Weintraub said. “Which is returning to normal life better than ever before in everything we do.”
To minimize the spread of COVID in dining halls, Cornell Dining used more disposable containers during the 2020-2021 academic year than in the past, according to the director of organizational excellence, Lisa Zehr.
This year, Cornell Dining sold 300 sets of reusable containers and utensils to students — which the University will continue to offer next semester. They will also bring back The ‘Kick the Cup’ campaign, a competition across retail dining locations promoting reusable mugs instead of paper cups.
In order to address food insecurity on campus, Cornell Dining will continue the Swipeout Hunger Program, in which students can donate a meal swipe to others in need. Cornell Dining will be lowering the cost of all available meal plans for first and second year students.
The price of each meal plan will drop, taking the price of the next cheapest plan. The unlimited meal plan will now cost the same as the previous 14 meal plan.
“Food should never be a barrier to academic success,” Dustin Cutler, director of dining services, said. “We seek to create an experience on campus to build community and enhance equality.”
Zach Zidi ’22 has worked with Cornell Dining for three years. As a self-professed lover of food who enjoys his work at a dining hall, he expressed his excitement for dining halls to once again act as social hubs on campus.
The majority of changes will center around the new residential facilities on North Campus, Cutler said in a Student Assembly town hall on April 28.
This expansion includes Morrison Dining Hall, which will take culinary inspiration from around the world. Morrison will feature 11 different cuisines with customizable, made-to-order meals. In addition to two wood fired pizza ovens, Morrison will house a series of woks, rotisserie ovens and iron grills.
Another goal with the new eatery, according to Cutler, is to better accommodate dietary needs. Morrison will offer students vegan and vegetarian options at Edo Grill as well as kosher and halal stations.
Zain Abid ’24, who eats halal meat for religious reasons, said that a designated halal station is a step in the right direction for Cornell Dining. The biggest challenge for Abid his first year was efficiency and quality. He noted having to specially request frozen halal meals, which took the dining halls extra time to prepare and tasted less fresh than the non-frozen options.
Morrison will also serve an educational purpose, according to Cutler. Cornell Dining will share the new space with the Department of Nutritional Sciences, which plans to hold classes in the ‘discovery kitchens.’
These kitchens will be transparent spaces enclosed in glass with 12 cooking stations each. When not used by students in class, Dining services will use them for their research and development of new recipes.
In addition to Morrison, Cornell Dining will add two cafes to North Campus. Crossings Cafe, designed to pair with the fitness center one level below, will mainly serve smoothies. The other, unnamed eatery will offer beverages.
Beginning in January 2022, the North Star dining hall will undergo a complete renovation and Okenshields Dining Room will combine with the Ivy Room.
“Hopefully it will be a place where we can celebrate food and community at the same time,” Cutler said at the town hall. “We have done a great job trying to blend those two together with the restrictions that we have, but I look forward to students being able to customize their own meals again.”