Dining halls at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) are well-known as the “it spots” for social gatherings, in addition to their array of food options. From making new friends at the stir-fry line to roommates going on an adventure for a late-night bite, Holloway Commons, Stillings and Philbrook provides a place for students to fuel their energy without sacrificing their social life. Each dining hall also has different specialties, food options and even themes to cater for all UNH students.
However, the current health crisis has made it harder for the dining halls to keep up with the same service they have been providing for years. UNH has also increased their prices for meal plans and swipes. While some students understand that the dining halls have to sacrifice the quantity of food options for safety, others are not pleased with the quality of food they are receiving for the price that they paid.
Katherine Weick, an earth science major said, “The dining halls this year are definitely different, it is not what I had expected.” Nonetheless, the sophomore said that the staff are still friendly and nice to the students. When asked about the price increase for the meal plans, Weick said, “I understand that using disposables would cost a lot of money, but for the food options that they are offering and less staff members, I don’t see why they have to increase the prices.”
The one thing that she thinks they should change is putting out a few more options, if not a lot. All in all, Weick is happy with her experience by saying that they are “doing a pretty good job.”
“We are all being fed, that is a good thing,” she added.
Contrarily, Harry Piaquad, a junior economics major, thinks that the dining halls are “lacking in every department.” Piaquad is not satisfied with the dining halls at all this semester.
“I don’t mind having less options, but even the quality of the food is poorer than last semester,” he said. Piaquad believes that less is more in terms of the complexity of the food served. “They need to stop making us fancy food and just make food we actually want to eat – simple but better-quality food,” he explained.
But for first-year genetics major Dominic Carignan, the experience at the dining halls has been good so far. “I guess they started off a bit rocky, but it is getting better,” he said. Carignan believes that UNH dining halls are “doing the best they can with the current situation.” However, Carignan would like to see an increase in portions and options for desserts. “The desserts are pretty small. Even with lesser options, I would hope that it was in a bigger portion,” he added.
“It is not easy to make changes,” said junior Karly Houghton, a sustainability and recreational management and policy dual major that works in Holloway Commons. But with all the negative comments coming from students about the food at the dining hall this semester, Houghton replied, “With the current situation, the dining halls are doing the best they can.”
Houghton explained that they had to provide less food because they do not want to sacrifice safety for quantity. “The dining halls had to even change their food provider when this pandemic happened, and that was not easy at all,” added Houghton.
For Houghton, working in Holloway Commons this semester was different.
“Not a lot of students go to the dining halls anymore, it is less chaotic but still a lot of work because we always need to make sure that there is food on the counter,” she explained.
When asked about the changes in routines for the staff, Houghton said there are not many differences.
“We have always been required to wear gloves at all time but now we also need to wear masks. We are also only allowed to go to the dining hall through the staff entrance and lastly, we have a strict rule of putting the food on the counter and we are not allowed to hand food to student,” she said.
However, Houghton believes that the dining hall should switch to a better alternative. “For being one of the most sustainable colleges in the country, I think we should shift to using plates and utensils that are eco-friendlier, we are just using so much plastic right now,” she said.