The University recently unveiled its new internally-operated dining plan, which has brought opinions for both new and returning students. The transition was made to allow for more sustainable food practices, enhanced student experience and collaboration with local partners, like Gold Crust Bakery.
In an email to The News-Letter, Assistant Vice President for Media Relations and News J.B. Bird explained that the University’s shift to in-house dining was in response to requests and expectations from students on food services and options provided by the University.
“The goal of moving to self-operated dining was to be able to build a program that places a priority on the student experience and aligns with the values and mission of the university,” he wrote. “This long-term goal embraces our commitment to a student-centered dining experience as well as sustainability and public health goals that will drive us to become a leader in dining service for our students and the Hopkins community.”
This transition has led to new menu options and dining atmospheres in dining halls and on-campus stores alike. New updates to the dining options at Hopkins include a gelato station at Nolan’s; freshly made sushi, poke bowls and salads at CharMar and the renaming of the Fresh Food Cafe to the Hopkins Cafe.
Sophomore Rachel Oh commented on the opportunity for students to cook their meals in the dining halls in an interview with The News-Letter.
“I like that this year there’s a lot more do-it-yourself options like the omelet bar, waffle maker and bread toasting station in Hopkins Cafe,” she said. “I like that there are more components overall, which helps make the dining more accommodating.”
Oh also commented on the quality of the food. She shared that she thinks the quality has significantly improved from last year’s options but is interested in seeing if this improved quality will be sustained as the school year progresses.
Similar to Oh, sophomore Janya Budaraju acknowledged the improvements in the dining halls in an interview with The News-Letter.
“It’s a step up compared to dining last year,” she said. “The food quality is generally a lot better, and things taste better and fresher.”
In an interview with The News-Letter, freshman Lixing Wu expressed his frustrations with vegetarian and vegan meal options in the dining halls. He explained that he witnessed students finding meat in their meals, many of which were labeled vegetarian or vegan.
Budaraju expressed similar sentiments, sharing that she believes there aren’t as many vegetarian and vegan options, and the lack of adequate labeling on food items makes it harder to decide which meals fit her dietary restrictions.
“The labeling is hard to see, especially at Hopkins Cafe. Things aren’t labeled fully," she said. “There have definitely been some close calls with meat being added to dishes, and I didn’t really expect that.”
Like Budaraju, freshman Milun Jain commented on his experiences as a vegetarian in an interview with The News-Letter.
“As a vegetarian, the biggest problem I’ve faced so far is that there’s not a lot of variety on a day-to-day basis. For grocery options at CharMar, I think that they’re good but that they definitely need to increase the supply,” he said. “A lot of the times that I’ve gone, they’re running out of grab-and-go meals and the vegetarian sushi is gone most of the time.”
Along with changes in meal options, the University developed Hopkins Dining to provide students with a dining experience focused on nutrition, community and enrichment. Students can expect to see food holidays, cultural events and foods and sustainable initiatives.
Budaraju noted that the stations, like the naan bar, featuring cultural foods have been nice options for meals, but she's hoping that as time moves on, the quality improves. She explained that while the food may not be able to imitate home-cooked meals or restaurant foods, she is looking forward to trying other options that will be offered in the coming months.
Oh explained that although she is excited to try the ethnic food options, the current meals may not be meeting student expectations.
“I really like the idea of them trying to incorporate more cultural options in the dining halls, like East Asian and Mediterranean food, but based on the past few weeks, it hasn’t lived up to the hype,” she said. “An attempt has definitely been made, but maybe the results aren’t meeting those expectations.”
Bird emphasized that Hopkins Dining appreciates and welcomes feedback from students.
“We are still in our early weeks of the launch of the academic year, and our new offerings and the feedback we are receiving is helpful in guiding our efforts to enhance both our service and the student experience, as we seek to offer more culturally authentic food and more diverse offerings with an emphasis on local sourcing,” he wrote.