Students discuss the value of the dining plans
Patrons of all five dining halls give opinions on how they feel about MIT’s system
The five MIT dining halls on campus — and their respective food quality — have produced a variety of comments, both good and bad, from students around the Institute. According to The Tech’s online survey, students tend to pick the lowest meal plan available to them. Moreover, given the choice, many students would prefer meal plans much lower than their own. When asked what they would change about dining at MIT, students responded saying they wished for rollover meals (where not used meals would be transferred to more meals the next week), relax the requirement for underclassmen to subscribe to costly meal plans, and add more variety to the food while also making the plans more friendly to those with dietary restrictions (i.e. vegan-friendly).
Students from across campus tended to complain about the lack of options for those with dietary restrictions and the generally poor quality of meals in specific dorms. Maseeh Hall, the newest dining hall, has come under fire for having the poorest quality of food and service, despite the fact all freshmen living in Maseeh are required to be on the Full 19 meal plan. Anirudh Sailesh ’16, a Maseeh resident, stated “breakfast is pretty good but it just gets worse as you go from there.” As a vegetarian, Sailesh also believes that Maseeh does not have many options for students. “Sometimes all I can eat in Maseeh is a peanut butter sandwich. But even that’s not appetizing every single day,” Sailesh continued.
Deniz Oktay ’16, another Maseeh resident, has even claimed to have experienced an allergic reaction due to eating a dessert in Maseeh that was not labeled as containing nuts. Now, however, he claims that Maseeh usually labels their desserts properly for those allergic to nuts.
Pratheek B. Nagaraj ’16, also a resident in Maseeh, ranks Maseeh Hall as having the worst food. Other residents of Maseeh including Oktay and Jennifer Huang ’15 (on the Any 12 plan) agreed that Maseeh would be the lowest on their list while other dining halls such as Next House and McCormick have better quality food. When asked how to improve Maseeh Hall dining, most agreed that more options would be better, especially for vegetarians. Also, all the interviewed residents agreed that a concept of rollover, in which unused dining swipes could be used in other weeks, would be more beneficial for the students.
As a plug for Maseeh, however, Nagaraj noted that Maseeh Hall does stay open for the longest amount of time out of any of the dining halls and its convenience is also a big plus.
Simmons Hall dining, the dining hall with highest recorded number of health violations has seemed to turn itself around with the introduction of a new manager, Brian McCarthy. McCarthy, who has written a number of books on cooking including The Vegan Family Cookbook, has garnered positive responses, especially from those with dietary restrictions.
Juan J. Jaramillo ’16, a resident of Simmons and a vegan, maintained that the food quality has drastically improved since spring break. “I think with the new chef, Simmons is now the best dining hall. I’m not even vegan and I still love the vegan options here. Everything has been improved,” said Jorge A. Lugo ’16, in agreement with other Simmons residents.
Ariella S. Yosafat ’16 said that many of the dining hall staff do not spend time developing relationship with students. On the other hand, Yosafat believed that the new manager made a great first impression by spending time during study breaks making smoothies for Simmons’ residents. “Small things like that really make the experience here more enjoyable and gives me a chance to learn something about our chef, which I think is important.”
Despite the major improvements according to residents, all agree that the same structure of the meal plan is a cost burden. Prashant S. Venkataram ’14, who has lived in Simmons since his freshman year, believes that sharing meals and rollovers should be incorporated into the meal plan. All of the residents agreed that the meal plan was too costly, including the son of the current Simmons dining hall manager, Alexander P. McCarthy ’14, a Tech arts writer and also a resident of Simmons. “I’m vegan as well and I feel like, since my dad came on as chef, the options have definitely improved. But I don’t feel like I’m getting a $13 dinner when I eat here. I can go to a really good vegan restaurant in Cambridge and get a meal for $10 or less,” McCarthy said.
Baker House is considered an “average dining hall,” according to Cheng L. Dai ’16 a resident of Baker. Dai finds the food to usually be not worth his money. “I prefer McCormick as the quality of the food is much higher. Food there seems fresher. While there isn’t much variety during the day, there is a lot more variety from week to week,” Dai said.
Alex X. Chen ’16, a freshman on the Full 19 meal plan, said, “I like the variety of fruits and stir fry.”
On improving the dining plan, Dai said, “I think dining should be restructured in a way that makes it not seem like a tax to us.”
Next House dining, one of the farthest dorms on campus has been well received by many students. Three seniors: Kaleb Ayalew ’13, Tristan B. Daniels ’13, and Jeremy B. Dalcin ’13, all agreed that they had experienced some of the best food at Next House. At the same time, all agreed that the only other dorm they eat in, Maseeh Hall, does have some good food during lunch and great desserts. On the structure of the dining plan, Ayalew stated “I can fully understand the motivation for not having a meal plan at all. I personally would prefer a meal plan less than what I currently have, which is the Any 7.”
According to Dalcin, the high cost of the meal plan also affected his decision on whether or not to stay in Next. “There was a point last semester when I moved out because the meal plan cost so much. But I ultimately came back this semester for the culture.” Ayalew, Daniels, and Dalcin all couldn’t think of many ways to improve Next dining. However, all found the meal plan to be slightly costly and structured unfavorably for students (echoing the idea that many students don’t eat breakfast or eat dinner much later than dining hours).
Finally, McCormick Hall is considered by a number of students as the dining hall with the highest quality of food. Daniel H. Moon ’16 believed that “McCormick satisfies most of my needs for a variety of options, which are almost all fresh.” Both Moon and Gabriel Lesnick ’16 are on the full 19-meal plan due to their status as residents in Maseeh Hall. Lesnick finds that he eats at McCormick almost every day for dinner. “I feel that McCormick has a smaller sample size to which they cater to. This makes it easier for them to cook better quality food.”
At the same time, both Moon and Lesnick agreed that they would prefer not to be on a meal plan at all. When asked about how the dining plan swayed their decision, Lesnick replied, “I don’t think I took it into account much, but to be honest I would definitely not choose Maseeh again if I knew then what I know now. The requirement to be on the meal plan just makes dining unaccountable and a crappy experience overall.”