Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
June 12, 2024

University dining does not deserve No. 2 ranking

By Christy Lee | October 30, 2014

On Aug. 13, the college ranking that we have all been waiting for arrived: The Daily Meal’s list for the “75 Best Colleges for Food in America for 2014.” Students prepared for the waves of jealousy over their friends' campus dining programs at other schools, but much to everyone’s surprise, we ranked second. In one year, we managed to climb from number 42 to number two, beating every single Ivy League university in terms of food. But is the ranking truly accurate?

One of the biggest components to the Daily Meal’s rubric is “Nutrition and Sustainability,” and as the article says, dining options here “include manicotti puttanesca, house-smoked beef brisket sandwiches, Texas-style French toast, and oven-roasted meatloaf with honey carrots and steamed peas, so you will always be eating well at Johns Hopkins.” Indeed, the Fresh Food Café (FFC) provides healthy and tasty options, but it also offers numerous unhealthy options too. It has a salad bar, a fruit bar and a pasta bar, but it also has a fries station, a grill station and a dessert table that is larger that the fruit station. The amounts of sodium, sugar and fat in these foods are unbelievable. While it is of course the students’ responsibility to choose a balanced diet, I would like to point out that truly healthy options in the FFC make up less than about 40 percent of the cafeteria menu, and they are the same options, day after day.

As for sustainability, while it is true that University President Ronald J. Daniels has pledged to use 35 percent “real food” by 2020, sustainability in a dining hall goes beyond just food. Many students choose to get takeout instead of eat inside the FFC every now and then, but they must use the takeout boxes provided by the FFC. How much waste are we generating on a daily basis from the use of takeout cups and boxes? I remember one time when I was sick and a friend of mine brought soup to me, he had to use a paper cup instead of Tupperware because that would be against the rules! The same could be said about Nolan’s and Levering; the amount of waste we generate from takeout is astounding. Even though the cups and take out boxes are all biodegradable, I would wager that it takes less energy and resources to wash some Tupperware then it does to manufacture a paper cup.

Another component in the rubric is “Accessibility and Service.” Most students would agree with me that we do have unparalleled service, but accessibility is another matter: Late night dining is only available Sunday to Thursday. Some might argue that college students do not stay up late studying on weekends, but we do here at Hopkins. I only need to take a peak into Gilman to see that students need nourishment late on a Saturday night. Besides, the only time students can actually stay up and enjoy a late meal with friends is on the weekends, so offering late night only on school nights makes no sense at all to me.

Another one of the reasons why Hopkins is so highly ranked might be due to the component “Education and Events.” Thanks to the Office of Residential Life, students get to participate in cooking classes in dorm kitchens, learn beyond the classroom during “Take Your Professor Out To Lunch” events and have the occasional make-your-own-sundae nights. In terms of the residential experience as a whole, Residential Life brings their students together around food. However, when we focus our attention solely on the dining experience, something is lacking.

Here's the bottom line, Hopkins has good food, but as most students can attest, the dining experience is not optimal. Does Hopkins dining deserve its number two spot? I will leave you to make the decision.

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