It’s officially back to school season, and with the COVID pandemic nowhere close to over, it’s a complicated time for colleges and universities. While some have pulled the plug on the fall semester and will be fully online, many schools are still moving forward with in-person plans, and the logistics for these plans goes far beyond just spacing out desks in classrooms. With New York regulations currently requiring a 14-day quarantine for travelers from 35 states and territories, NYU currently has hundreds of students isolated in their dorm rooms, and according to some accounts, it’s not going great.
With regular dining halls and food service options out of the question during the quarantine period, NYU decided it would provide quarantined students with three meals a day, delivered to their rooms, at no extra charge (a year at NYU costs nearly $80,000). The plan sounded nice in theory, but once students arrived on campus last week, things quickly devolved into a nightmare—and God bless Gen-Z, because the whole thing was documented, where else, on TikTok.
The meals have MANY issues, but fundamentally there seems to be a strange definition of what constitutes an adequate meal. In one of the first videos that went viral, a student named Ricardo shares a meal that’s labeled “chicken Caesar salad.” The box actually contains an apple, a small bag of tortilla chips, and a packet of balsamic vinaigrette. Not only is this not what’s on the label, it’s not any kind of actual logical meal.
@rico_da_foolChicken caesar salad but the chicken caesar salad is silent😌😌😌##nyutiktok ##nyu ##fyp ##expensive ##flex♬ original sound – drydoodooflakes
A few hours after Ricardo’s TikTok blew up, he posted an update that his dorm manager brought him extra food, along with a voucher for two free orders from GrubHub. That’s nice for Ricardo, but obviously he wasn’t the only one experiencing some subpar (and truly puzzling) NYU quarantine meals.
Other random meal items that have been documented on TikTok include whole lemons, cups of peanut butter with nothing to spread it on, bagels covered in mold, and a now-infamous watermelon chicken salad. That sounds like it could be good, but it’s literally just a little container of soggy chicken and watermelon. This was a popular item, and now there’s even a parody version of Harry Styles’ “Watermelon Sugar” to go along with it. Iconic, honestly.
@onetoomanytwizzlersok but can somebody tell me what watermelon chicken salad tastes like? ##nyu ##nyufood ##nyutiktok ##watermelonchickensalad ##fyp♬ watermelon chicken salad – onetoomanytwizzlers
Along with these questionable non-meals, some students have had issues receiving any deliveries at all. Multiple students reported only receiving a single “meal” on certain days, even when others on their dorm floors were getting more frequent deliveries. Annette Yang, who said she had already been contacted by The New York Times about her lack of meals, even made a sign for her door that said “PLEASE DON’T SKIP MY ROOM FOR FOOD.” On Sunday, she posted that she received an apology email from NYU along with more food… but then she never received her dinner that night. Reminder that a year of school at NYU costs $78,000.
All of this is troubling, but another issue is that NYU has been repeatedly giving students meals that violates their dietary restrictions. One student with a gluten allergy repeatedly received bread in her meals, and received no response when she tried to contact NYU dining services. Vegan students have been struggling as well, receiving items such as steak salads, string cheese, plain chicken, and cartons of milk. Even a meal that was labeled “vegan” contained pudding that clearly said “made with real milk” on the label.
This student, Sara, is a vegetarian, and after complaining about receiving meat in her meals, she received an apology, and an assurance that she was now properly marked as a vegetarian in the system. Here’s what she received for her next meal:
@lilbabyaidyylunch and dinner all served at 4:30 🤩 ##nyuquarantine after the watermelon chicken salad this is great ##nyu woop woop♬ original sound – lilbabyaidyy
Chicken! For dinner that night, she also received a “Moroccan-spiced chicken bowl”, so clearly that email really worked. The videos themselves are funny, but it’s pretty f*cked up to repeatedly disregard dietary restrictions, especially when these students have limited other food options. Most of the dorms don’t have available kitchens, and constantly ordering food through outside delivery services is cost-prohibitive for many students. I doubt anyone expected the NYU quarantine food to be gourmet, but it’s turned out worse than anyone could have predicted.
But not everyone is going hungry. In a TikTok, Kevin Sun shared that he had received seven meals the previous day, and three breakfasts that morning. Make it make sense!
@kevnsunidk why y’all mad im ✨feastin✨ 🤤🥰🤝 ##greenscreen ##nyu ##fyp ##nyutiktok ##coronavirus ##quarantine ##college♬ follow meee – izzyrenaéx
Judging from more recent TikToks, it seems like NYU is trying to get its act together, but there are still major issues (remember Annette, who never got her Sunday night dinner, even after an official apology). The students still have over a week to go in their quarantine period, and it seems like the school was woefully unprepared for the massive undertaking of feeding all these kids. Hmm, it’s almost like reopening right now isn’t a good idea??
Images: EQRoy / Shutterstock.com; rico_da_fool, onetoomanytwizzlers, lilbabyaidyy, kevnsun / TikTok