Days after the end of Berkeley College’s stranglehold on sustainable food, Yale undergraduates are merrily reaping the organic fruits of Berkeley’s success.
Across campus, most students expressed overwhelming enthusiasm for the recent success of the Yale Sustainable Food Project in bringing local and organic food to Yale’s dining halls. Students from different residential colleges, all of which now benefit equally from the sustainable offerings, are raving about the increased options, which include peach, prosciutto, and goat-cheese pizza and warmed brownie-walnut pudding.
Starting in 2003, Berkeley was the only one of the 12 residential college dining halls to offer a fully sustainable menu in an experiment that determined the feasibility of maintaining the project. Under the current second phase of the experiment, all the residential college dining halls feature an equal number of sustainable options, including an all-sustainable Thursday dinner and at least one sustainable entree and side dish at every lunch and dinner.
The popularity of Berkeley’s menus forced dining-hall administrators to limit the number of students who could transfer from their own colleges, which produced long lines and uncertainty about whether admittance would be granted. Students from other colleges expressed relief that they would no longer have to go through such an arduous process.
“I’ve had great meals and feel like the menus are much improved [at colleges other than Berkeley],” Alex Civetta ’09 said. “I like being able to go downstairs [to eat in Morse] without having to hike across campus for a good meal.”
Morse resident Mitchell Ji ’09 said he has noticed a more generally positive atmosphere in the dining hall Thursday night, during the college’s first all-sustainable dinner.
“The dining-hall ladies were really excited to show off their new organic dishes,” Ji said. “Dinner was delicious — it was better than usual Morse food.”
With much of the perceived inequality removed from the undergraduate eating experience, though, some students said they missed the excitement that accompanied a typically-rare visit to Berkeley.
“Now that there isn’t one place to aspire to eat, people will chill out more,” Jane Hu ’09 said. “At the same time, there’s nothing special to look forward to.”
Although their college is losing its status as the one Yale dining hall boasting superior cuisine, Berkeley residents had mostly positive reactions to the shift in sustainable resources. Some said they think that the superior skills of the Berkeley chefs still make their dining hall the best.
“Personally, I think sustainable food limits what you can eat,” Elissa Dunn ’09 said. “Now that we have the variety in food and still have the same chefs, I think Berkeley is even better.”
Other Berkeley residents admitted that it is difficult losing their dining advantages, but that it was overall a good decision.
“Obviously, we’re losing out on a really special privilege that we had for a couple of years, but it seems like a change in the program that will benefit undergraduates as a whole,” Sarah Minkus ’08 said. “It’s nice not having waiting lines and transfer policies here anymore.”
Now that sustainable food has been made more readily available, the YSFP is looking ahead to determine whether the program’s quantity and variety can be further expanded in the future. YSFP Director Joshua Viertel said local resources will largely determine that decision, but he said he expects it to happen.
In the meantime, all Yale undergraduates are seeing the distinction between the environmentally friendly, more work-intensive products of the YSFP and normal dining hall fare.
“I’m really happy with the dining-hall services, as long as they keep it up,” Aaron Otani ’08 said. “I like both organic and non-organic food, but there’s definitely a difference.”