Expanded dining hall menus this fall have offered a greater variety of food options, but resulted in more waste, dining hall staff and students said.
Two months after Yale Dining Services extended the Yale Sustainable Food Project’s organic foods to all residential college dining halls, meal choices have become healthier, more creative and more vegetarian-friendly, students and staff said. But some students and residential college chefs said the wider array of options has produced a new set of problems.
Sabrina Selfridge, the head chef for Branford and Saybrook colleges, said the dining hall staff was surprised to see the menu double in size this fall, after the organic meal options were introduced.
“Instead of adjusting the menu to incorporate these new foods, they just added them in and now there is too much variety,” she said.
Jonathan Edwards College head chef Mary Ann Sasso said she feels the new menu size is overwhelming.
“The food is considerably better than it was ten years ago, but way too much waste has been accumulating from uneaten foods,” Sasso said.
She said dining services is currently working on cutting down the menu to make it more cost-efficient and less wasteful.
Executive Chef for Residential and Retail Operations Thomas Peterlik, who heads a committee that determines which recipes to include on the menu, said Dining Services recycles the menu every six weeks as seasonal foods allow, but eliminates foods that do not meet with student approval.
“We’re currently waiting on more feedback about the Yale Sustainable Food Project before we expand it [further],” he said.
Dining Support Services Director Charles Bennett said dining halls this fall are providing healthier options and a greater number of international recipes than in the past, as a result of diner preference.
“We have gained an expanded knowledge of international foods because students are more diverse in terms of nationality and food taste,” he said.
Bennett said that there has been a recent influx of Thai and Indian foods that dining services never offered before.
“I think it’s great that we try to feature foods from different students’ homelands even though our versions may not be quite as good,” Bennett said.
Timothy Dwight Dining Hall Assistant Manager Ray Toro, who used to work for Wesleyan University Dining Services, said he was impressed by Yale’s food selection when he first joined the staff. Toro said Yale selects its food from 42 purveyors, which is almost triple the number of purveyors that Wesleyan uses.
“It’s clear that we have much greater food diversity than other colleges,” he said.
Selfridge said she feels changes in menu diversity are due to a number of factors but depend heavily on student feedback.
While some students said dining hall food has noticeably improved this semester, others said the changes have not created enough new options for students who are not vegetarian.
Jeremy Davis ’06 said he thinks the quality of food has gone up and choices have become healthier.
“More sophisticated options such as special seasonings are being offered, rather than just conventional college food,” he said.
But Christopher Wells ’06 said he feels the new menus do not offer enough healthy alternatives for students who prefer meat.
“Too often, I find myself resorting to burgers and french fries because that is what’s available,” he said.
Peterlik said Dining Services plans to expand the dining menu with vegan and vegetarian alternatives and more healthy options.