NEWS Dining Discrepancies: How Fall Semester Cuts, Changes, and General Dissatisfaction with Food Options Affect Students

Dining Discrepancies: How Fall Semester Cuts, Changes, and General Dissatisfaction with Food Options Affect Students

From newsstands: This story appears in the November 2022 print edition of The Eagle.You can find the digital version here.

Students have been frustrated by the lack of food options for students with dietary restrictions as American University has made several changes to the school’s dining options.

In the past year, AU Dining has swapped Wonk Burger and Absurd Bird for True Burger, Pom & Honey for Paper Lantern, moved Hissho Sushi to Kerwin Hall, Baba’s Pizza and Halal Shack at Old Location. These changes, combined with TDR’s recent health code violations, have left some members of the AU community feeling overwhelmed with their dietary choices.

Limited on-campus dining forces students with food restrictions and insecurities to rely on meal options elsewhere. For some, this has resulted in an increase on top of the $100 meal plan required for students living on campus.

Issues such as the closure of Create and District Pickle being only open for a few hours five days a week limited student-friendly dining options, while others felt confined to TDR, an environment that made some students feel unsafe.

“[Students] Not enough variety. They eat the same thing, and they feel really miserable and trapped in their choices,” said Elise Buellesbach, a sophomore in the School of Public Affairs.

Vegan and vegan students, like Mina Dunn, a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences, struggle to find on-campus options that meet their dietary needs. Dunn often said that with limited dining hours and few options at these stations, she could only find two or three places to eat on campus—and those options didn’t always meet her needs.

“I can’t imagine being gluten-free or vegan here because everything I do as a vegan has dairy or bread in it, so I don’t really know how they’re balanced,” Dunn says.

Students like Buellesbach have voiced concerns about dining options on campus through social media and dining-advisory sessions, often met with silence and stagnation. At the AU Catering Advisory Committee meeting on October 19, several members of the Students with Disabilities Union expressed their concerns about food options in meal plans and the lack of flexibility in accommodations.

“The reality is that meal plans don’t meet our needs, and TDR doesn’t serve those of us well with dietary restrictions,” Buellesbach said.

Many students with allergies also find it difficult to eat in TDR’s “allergy-friendly” section G8. According to TDR, this portion caters to the eight most common allergens: milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soy.

“They seem to forget that the student’s allergy is not G8,” says Gabrielle Bertrand, a junior at SPA.

Students whose allergies were not met in this section found themselves caught between risking cross-infection and eating the same meals every day to get enough. The Eagle emailed AU Dining seeking comment on the students’ concerns but did not hear back.

In a dining advisory session, Bertrand noted that ingredient changes and other allergens are not always updated on the dining app or on the ingredient card.

“They say they have paper cookbooks that we can request, but how do students know they haven’t updated the app?” Bertrand said.

Students across campus are seeing a lack of variety and consistency in meal options this semester, and many feel unheard when it comes to making necessary dining changes at on-campus locations.

“The problems with dieting students are not unique to our class, but a general trend,” Bielsbach said. “How do we make food more exciting and more fun? How do we make this a more accessible and equitable experience?”

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