New York Colleges Quarantine Meal Chaos


The edifice of New York University’s Steinhardt campus. Courtesy of New York University

At the start of the fall semester, students at NYU and Columbia University began using TikTok to contrast the meals they’re having delivered during quarantine. As students head back to school, universities have been experiencing problems while managing students on-campus in the midst of the pandemic. New York University (NYU) and Columbia have caused a stir of talk on TikTok. Creators on the app have been creating videos of the food the universities have been delivering to the dorms through quarantining.

Many students have been receiving below subpar meals that have been lackluster or not fully cooked. With that there have been many students who’ve called or emailed the dining hall about the service and quality of food. But receive the same answer- – that they apologize for the bad service and that the students would receive their meals in quick time.

Creator Rafael Bryant made a TikTok of the video of the meal he received, which consisted of cereal without milk. Many other creators showed the meals they received and many lacked sufficient nutritional value. But with 80 million people on TikTok in the United States, about 4.7 million people had seen one video from Creator Benben Funtime of the vegan meal the university had provided him.

Then Creator The Dork Web took to TikTok to share the information that not only were the meals lacking in nutritional value but that students weren’t receiving meals that they had been promised. With over 2,600 students that arrived at the University at the end of August they had been in isolation and still had another week of isolation to go and NYU stated they could not provide adequate meals for every student.

NYU students were receiving oranges for dinner; people who were gluten-free we’re getting rolls of bread and sandwiches as meals. Then on top of that vegan students were receiving a slice of “nasty” steak over a salad. That led to students deciding to smell-test the food and most of the food students were receiving was not fit for consumption. An apple was sliced open and found rotting from the inside.

One TikTok video captured student Annette Yang’s dorm room door with a sign that said “PLEASE DON’T SKIP MY ROOM FOR FOOD!” The caption underneath the video quoted Yang stating, “I haven’t gotten food today or yesterday. Pls help.” This led students from Columbia University to make their own videos of the food being provided, and it presented a different story. 

Columbia Students showed the snack box they received when they first got to school. The boxes were filled with a variety of chips, hot sauce, utensils, etc…. They also received a box of Dunkin Donuts bottled coffee and a case of water bottles to put in the mini-fridge provided in their dorms. 

 Students from Columbia received hot and cold packs to store their food in along with cases of fresh fruit. Along with that students received adequate amounts of meals that they were promised. Then for the vegan students they received salads and a variety of fruits and vegetables, unlike the students at NYU who received steak over a salad.

Former Parkview Students Alykhan Pirani and Leann Mai attend Columbia University and NYU respectively. Both are staying on-campus at their universities while there is still a pandemic. Leann Mai discussed how her experience with the food provided to her wasn’t as bad as the other creators on TikTok had made it seem.

 Mai is a freshman at NYU, and through her two-weeks quarantining in the NYU dorms Mai spent her time watching Netflix, FaceTiming with friends and family back home and lots of sleeping. She was thankful to be out of quarantining for two reasons: she missed the outside and she was unhappy with the quality of the food NYU had been providing her.

As Mai was in quarantine she saw the TikToks of not only NYU’s food but Columbia’s and the difference in food they were receiving. “I personally did not feel jealous or hatred towards NYU for not having better food options,” but as Mai and hundreds and thousands of students go back to school they believe they should be getting adequate meals, especially for the hefty sum of money they pay to attend these universities.

Mai spoke on her experiences stating, “Personally, my food experiences were not as atrocious compared to everyone else’s experiences.” Mai received 2-3 meals a day and once had a rice bowl that she said “may or may not have been fully cooked.” But she explained,“eventually, the food quality got better.” NYU changed food couriers for quarantined residents, and Mai said they gave residents GrubHub money to purchase their own meals.

While Mai saw the food Columbia residents were receiving she understood that the “whole quarantining process was new for NYU and other colleges, but this doesn’t excuse the fact that they continued to forget to provide meals for students in other residence halls… the quality of the meals were below subpar.”

Even though Mai’s experiences were subpar, another student at NYU, Danielle Gould, a sophomore, made a video of the breakfast she was given. What did it show? Salad dressing, a cookie, chips, salt and pepper. Even though Danielle was upset with the food given to her she quoted, “at least people can be entertained.”

In contrast, Columbia students received meals which included sandwiches, packages of fruits, cupcakes, and a variety of regular and non-dairy milk. Students from Columbia like Alykhan Pirani said “we are receiving so much food every day for meals, that we decided to donate some of the food we didn’t need to local food banks in the New York City area.”

As entertaining as these videos were for people to watch at home it leads back to the bigger issue: NYU and other universities brought students back to campus when they probably should not have. For Mai and Pirani, they hope the universities will take more caution in letting students back on-campus, mandate and reinforce mask policies and make it mandatory to get tested  for COVID-19 frequently.