Frustrated with poor food quality in dining halls, students at Yale-NUS have been working with the administration to improve their options.
Because its new campus will not open until fall 2015, Yale-NUS has had to use the National University of Singapore’s dining halls since its 2013 opening. A school-wide survey conducted at Yale-NUS in March 2015, which garnered 210 respondents, found that students are not happy with the health and appeal of these facilities. The survey was conducted by the Dining Advisory Committee, composed of students and administrators tasked with selecting a dining hall vendor for Yale-NUS’s new campus by May 2015.
All five students interviewed said they believe current food offerings are subpar. Enkhzul Badral YNUS ’17 said the standards are so low that she has been forced to stop eating dining hall dishes entirely.
“The food quality is absolutely terrible,” she said. “The first two months I moved here, I had persistent gastrointestinal problems that only went away when I quit eating dining hall food.”
DAC member Roslyn Teng YNUS ’18 said the committee hopes to improve food quality at Yale-NUS for next year and beyond by acting as a direct mouthpiece for student preferences.
DAC member Zachary Mahon YNUS ’17 said the committee holds “significant weight,” though he acknowledged that the final decision on choosing a new vendor will be made by the administration due to budgetary concerns.
Since Yale-NUS is currently sharing facilities with NUS, Yale-NUS Dean of Students Kyle Farley said the dining hall is bound under a contract that provides fixed options for 12 meals per week. For the rest of the meals, including lunch and a few weekend meals, Farley said, Yale-NUS provides “a higher standard of food.”
Farley said students can expect better food once Yale-NUS moves to its new campus. Having appealing dining halls, he added, will build camaraderie at Yale-NUS — much like it does at Yale University in New Haven.
Chris O’Connell, student life manager at Yale-NUS, said the office of the dean of students began meeting with potential vendors for the new campus last semester. He added that since dining halls are crucial to building a sense of community, the office has made selecting the right vendor for the dining halls a priority.
This semester, interested companies were invited to provide proposals while the Dining Advisory Committee conducted their survey. Four companies submitted bids for the contract, and the selected vendor will be announced by early May, O’Connell said.
“Some of the considerations for selecting a dining hall vendor include variety of menu options, nutritional value of the food, responsiveness to student feedback, sourcing and ingredient quality, sustainability, pricing and expertise of the vendor,” O’Connell said.
But students interviewed said they think the need to find a new vendor is urgent.
Badral said the food options are dominated by greasy, dense foods filled with starches and carbohydrates. She said the salad bar, the only healthy option, is limited and contains few fresh greens.
Similarly, DAC member Maggie Schumann YNUS ’17 said she believes the major weakness of Yale-NUS dining is the food quality. Its options lack in freshness, sustainability and healthfulness, she said, and none are explicitly organic or locally sourced. Health and quality will be the core evaluating principles when choosing a new vendor in response to student demands, she said.
But Schumann also said Yale-NUS dining does have strengths. Students have a choice of four different international cuisines at each meal, she said, and meals are affordable. Breakfast and dinner combined cost only eight Singapore dollars.
Though Regina Marie Lee YNUS ’18 said that while she appreciates Yale-NUS dining for its friendly staff and consistent service, she wishes the food options were more appealing.
“Oftentimes a dish comes from the same cut of meat in a different sauce, which can be really unappetizing,” she said. “The food is also often cold.”
Yale-NUS dining halls offer students 19 meals per week.