Student Life

My College Dining Hall Experience in 2020

Firsthand dining hall stories from a college freshman.

Student Contributor, Charles Schnell

October 06, 2020

My College Dining Hall Experience in 2020
Not only does healthy eating improve your physical health, but it also has a noticeable effect on your mood.
This past summer, one of my epiphanies regarded healthy eating: specifically, how I need to do more of it. I hit a great stride of health this summer: I was eating healthier and exercising daily. Then—I went to college. That statement expresses no ill will towards the college whatsoever, and I would like to express my gratitude during the next several words. I appreciate the hard work that our college dining services employs to provide three meals a day—only two on weekends, but more on that later. Plus, it usually tastes good, although we should not complain too much given the circumstances. Having said that, there are always some drawbacks, but first, let’s look at what’s good. For the most part, I have been satisfied with my dining hall experience. Our school is utilizing a “grab and go” system in our primary dining hall this semester. There are separates, of which at the front of each is a line of appetizing campus food options. The student picks what they would like, and the employee packs it all together and gives it to the student.
It’s a simple system, although there is one complaint among some of us. There seems to be some small differences between the multiple lines set up in the dining hall. For example, one line may be offering parmesan bread while another does not. You can’t pick which line you are assigned to when you arrive. One of my friends complains how he never gets “the thrill of being placed in line 2.” While the differences probably don’t go beyond miniscule, one cannot prevent their mind from wondering what fun is going on in other lines. There are other aspects to like, too: The dining hall is always clean—a primary concern for some during flu season; the desserts are utterly delectable; and the line usually moves quickly. * My main gripe with the dining hall is that there is not much variety. Fried and/or grilled chicken is served with every meal, usually with only one other entrée option. The chicken usually looks more appealing to me, and I also haven’t heard the best Yelp scores in favor of the other options. I’d wager I’ve had more chicken in the past month-and-a-half than I have during the rest of this year. Additionally, they always serve the same cooked veggies with every meal. I don’t have a problem with these. They taste good, they’re healthy, and I’m not selective. However, many of my friends share a different opinion. One said that she prays everyday “to be put in a line that has properly cooked and seasoned vegetables.” On this matter, all I can contribute is “to each their own.”
Another gripe I have, which I hinted at above, probably deals more with administration than actual dining hall operations. The main dining hall on-campus only serves two meals a day on weekends, brunch and dinner. I am not sure why this decision was made this year, but I figure it was justified by the assumption most college students don’t wake up until somewhere between noon and two p.m. on weekends. Unfortunately, I am not one of those people—most people on my floor are not, either. As such, for weekend breakfasts I usually utilize Postmates or Door Dash, rather than waiting out the clock. Speaking of food delivery services, I suspect some people are weary of using them right now out of health concerns. If it’s any consolation: I’ve been using them regularly, as well as others in the dorm, and neither I nor anyone else that I’ve talked to have had any problems. From the way the food is packaged and delivered, it is evident that restaurants and delivery drivers are responsible and conscious of health concerns. I’ve never felt concerned over contamination. Additionally, we all get tested for the coronavirus every week, and I have yet to test positive. I hope this can subside your fears of food delivery if you have any. The greatest advice I could give to a fellow freshman or to future college students is to try to eat healthy! I’ve learned a lot over the summer about eating healthy: fruits, veggies, whole grains, protein. Not only does healthy eating improve your physical health, but it also has a noticeable effect on your mood. I usually can concentrate more, have more energy, and am happier on days when I’ve eaten healthy than on days when I’ve given the wheel over to my decadent gluttony.
This advice is easier given than applied. I know through firsthand experience: It is difficult to find fruit and whole grains every day, and often the chicken I eat is fried rather than grilled. My school is providing a myriad of vegetables, and I am so glad that they are. I don’t have any advice to give right now if others are stuck without many healthy options, but as with many things currently, I eagerly wait for a solution to present itself. If another on-campus student is reading this, I hope you could relate to this account in some vein. If this post has worried any future college student—I’ve been reassured repeatedly that this is not how things normally are, just like this is not how the world usually is. Let’s hope both improve before long. I believe they will. *I always seem to be the poor guy stuck in the line that’s waiting on more food from the kitchen, and it only happens when I’m in a hurry.

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