Open Sesame

Courtesy of Drue Sokol

Since Danforth Dining Center was remodeled last summer, there have been both improvements and shortcomings. Although there have been complaints about issues like long lines and small portions, the space is now bright and vibrant while frequently offering a good selection of food. The dining hall is still lacking, though, in that it relies too heavily on pre-made meal options.

Students now stand in line and wait for the kitchen staff to construct their plate — typically an entrée accompanied by a side, such as french fries or chips. The process offers students a pre-planned, well-organized meal that is often ready on the spot, but inconveniences students who wish to modify menu items to suit their preferences. There is no reason that condiments and toppings should not be self-serve, allowing students to opt out or manage their portions.

Another salient example where students do not have enough control over their food can be found at the bagel station that is available during brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. Students are allowed to select their bagel and topping, but are not permitted to actually prepare the bagel themselves — they must wait in line for kitchen staff members to spread toppings on their behalf. This rigid requirement not only limits students’ choices, but also unnecessarily slows down the process.

There are some instances in which it is unreasonable to ask for custom meal options. Pasta dishes, for example, have ingredients mixed together in such a way that it would be difficult to prepare a special request. There is no reason, though, why other dishes that do have easily-removable parts don’t have self-serve components.

By serving only pre-made meal options, an unnecessarily large amount of food is wasted when students simply eat around what they do not want. Furthermore, those with dietary restrictions are inconvenienced when they cannot have a dish because it contains one (or more) easily removable item that they cannot eat. Cutting down on the number of pre-made meal options and giving students the ability to serve themselves more often would be an easy change to make while simultaneously providing more choices and cutting down on waste.

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