A new Taco Bell Cantina opened up for business on Commonwealth Avenue Wednesday, and this higher-end model of the fast food chain serves up some much-needed relief from the bland array of options on Boston University’s campus.
Although Taco Bell’s presence is much appreciated, students need more options that take dining points or meal swipes. Adaptations to the pandemic have caused the dining hall’s quality of food and experience to decline, and our only escape from the dining halls are often the bleak options around campus.
Our centrally located one-stop-shop for more traditional fast food is the George Sherman Union, which is very reflective of our campus in that it lacks food variety. We have far too many sandwich and bagel places that bring no culture to our diet. Although BU can’t control the city of Boston’s sparse food options, it sure can control the GSU, and last year’s renovations took away some fan favorites: Cheeseology and Cranberry Farms.
So, if we find the GSU or other Grubhub options unsuitable, we head to one of BU’s dining halls, where we see boxes of pre-packaged food sitting out for students. The boxes, however, contain portions adequate for maybe an elementary school student. So, we are forced to continue our search for another box in a sad journey to piece together a full meal.
If we’re being honest, that’s how the dining hall has always been. But at least pre-pandemic, we had vastly more ways to personalize our food and could ask for larger portions or for only the part of the meal we desire. Now, the stations sometimes stand devoid of any staff in sight, so students can’t even try to make requests.
The entire experience is oddly structured and could be executed in a much more productive way.
For starters, mass amounts of food should not be waiting for students to pick up. Our mission of sustainability is completely lost and compromised by using so many unnecessary little boxes. It’s clear that food is being overproduced relative to the number of students who are actually using dining halls.
Students also bring home many more boxes and meals than they need, because of silly inconveniences with simple fixes. We can’t ask for a side or broccoli or a side of carrots, so those who don’t eat meat must take home a whole box just to eat the vegetable portion of it.
Let’s expand on the lack of vegetables. Dining halls offer devastatingly few options besides the small containers of kidney beans at the salad bar and whatever they’re offering at the gluten-free station.
Also, could such a wealthy institution splurge on some berries? Our fruit consumption consists of bananas, apples and honeydew melons. The saddest part is, we can’t even rely on the strawberry puree from the waffle station to fix our berry craving.
And we can’t even use our dining points for healthy options, because we don’t really have such options to begin with. Healthy Blends, our tried and true spot for great smoothies, is gone for the semester, so our options on campus are limited to Subway and a bootleg Sweetgreen.
So, we are barren of fruit and vegetables, yet over-supplied with bread and bagels.
The poor freshmen have been deprived of the exhilarating dining experience of making your own waffle or watching your sandwich toast in the oven. Even the best part — bringing in your own tupperware and trying to sneak out food — is impossible when everyone walks out with their bright red bags and four cardboard boxes full of food.
We need a simple, consistent menu that offers stations where we can customize our meals to our liking. And the menu needs to be something we can count on. Too often, we visit the dining hall only to see food that either doesn’t line up with the website menu or does not match the description on its station’s sign.
Currently, the dining hall cleaning times are the same across campus. This is actually highly inconvenient, and the gaps during which the dining halls are closed are often times that students would like to eat. It’s possible to always have one dining hall open at any time — the University can accomplish this by setting different cleaning hours at each one.
BU can get back on track toward a great dining hall experience if it changes its tactics just a bit. The goal should be to entice students with familiar meals they can always depend on, and a great way to do that is by having designated stations — a Mexican line, Italian line, Chinese line and so on — students can consistently depend on. BU can also add more themed nights to spice up our meal times.
Students need better options for dining. With some creativity — and more salt and pepper — the University can adjust the dining hall and other campus eateries to better accommodate for an unavoidably lackluster school year.