After moving to its permanent campus this fall, Yale-NUS now has its own dining hall and a new food vendor — improvements students say have improved the quality of dining services.
Before the move, Yale-NUS occupied a building of the National University of Singapore and shared a dining hall with the College of Alice & Peter Tan, a residential college at the university. A collegewide survey conducted in March by the Dining Advisory Committee found that students were dissatisfied with food quality in the shared dining hall. With its own dining halls on the new campus, one in each of the three residential colleges, the school now has more control over dining experiences. Administrators interviewed said having Yale-NUS-only dining halls helps build college identity, and students praised the improved quality of food.
“I really am grateful for the feedback mechanisms in place such as our Dining Advisory Committee … It has truly been hard work on the part of the dining hall staff getting things off the ground,” Regina Ng YNUS ’18 said.
The Dining Advisory Committee is comprised of students and administrators tasked with providing feedback on dining experiences. Roslyn Teng YNUS ’18, a member of the committee, said the college could not decide on the specific food vendor used by NUS when the two schools shared dining hall space. Once the move to Yale-NUS’ independent campus was underway, the school chose its current vendor, SATS Ltd., in May after several rounds of food-tasting sessions with various dining vendors.
Yale-NUS Senior Manager of Operations and Dining Advisory Committee member Zoe Peters noted that Yale-NUS now has increased flexibility with its dining services. It can adjust the quantity of food provided based on the college’s calendar of events to minimize food waste, Peters said, adding that the school could also customize the menu to suit the Yale-NUS community.
Besides the flexibility offered by the new vendor, dining halls specific to Yale-NUS help foster a greater sense of identity at Yale-NUS, especially within each residential college, Peters said. She added that the school’s end-of-year dinner, when students at each college gather for a formal meal, illustrates how the dining space helps to bond the community.
Peters said Yale-NUS students voiced appreciation for being able to host more events in the space, such as evening study breaks, because they do not have to share a dining hall with NUS.
Interim Dean of Students and Rector of Elm College Brian McAdoo said the dining hall is the core of the community. McAdoo said students have taken advantage of the new space by setting up tables for discussion, language practice and even staging the occasional flash mob. Just as Yale-NUS’ residential college system is modeled after Yale’s, each Yale-NUS residential dining hall serves similar functions to those in New Haven.
“I have to say that the vision of the residential colleges’ dining halls set out by the Yale Dining team and our caterer is coming to fruition quite nicely,” McAdoo said.
Students interviewed praised the new dining hall for the buffet-style system and the healthier food choices.
According to Teng, at the shared dining hall, staff stationed at each food counter dished out a set portion of food and students could not select it for themselves. The new dining halls have adopted a self-serve buffet style.
Although the previous serving system allowed students and dining hall staff to bond, Ng said, it also resulted in tension when students were denied extra portions of a certain dish. However, Ng added that the new buffet makes portion control more difficult, and students who eat at the end of the dinner dining period find little food remaining.
May Tay YNUS ’17 said being able to choose her own portions of food reduces food waste. She added that there are a greater variety of healthy and vegetarian foods like grilled tofu, quinoa and sauteed mushrooms.
“I really appreciate that the food at the new campus is so much healthier, and so much more creatively so,” Tay said.
The dining options also provide students with dietary restrictions more choices, Tay said. She said that in the old dining hall, students on restricted diets such as vegan or kosher were often limited to mock meat or some “improvised meal cobbled together from random things available” that day.
Ng said that although she appreciates the healthier alternatives, she wanted to see a greater variety of other foods too. She recalled a period of time this semester when she was served boiled vegetables for three days in a row. Ng proposed that the school create a monthly dining hall menu to help the vendor organize their ingredients and students plan their meals.
On the weekends, the Elm College dining hall offers a made-to-order omelette station.