New York University is apologizing and giving gift cards to students after they complained about the poor quality of meals while quarantining in their dorm rooms.
Classes at NYU don’t officially start until September 2, but the university ‘s return to campus plans requires students and faculty traveling from outside the country or from restricted states to quarantine for two weeks.
While students are stuck inside their dorm rooms, the university committed to sending each day three “nutritious” complimentary meals, plus a snack, to every student, according to their website.
“We are aware of the students’ complaints, which are valid,” NYU said in an online statement. “This is a never-before-tried operation for us and our food vendor, Chartwells.”
There are 2,600 students quarantining in residence halls, according to the school.
Already missing home cooked meals
Ricardo Sheler, 17, is a Washington DC freshman who is experiencing many firsts, including eating less-than-stellar campus food.
“They do say you’ll miss home cooked meals,” he told CNN.
Sheler said he only has a sink in his dorm room so cooking meals himself isn’t an option. Friday is only his second full day of his quarantine.
Chicken Caesar salad is what was delivered to Sheler and initially he said his mom, who helped move him in, was excited to see a healthy meal for him. She took him out to dinner, so he put the meal in his fridge and saved it for the following day.
“I get my dinner out the fridge the next morning, pop it open on my bed and then it’s just like chips, an apple, vinaigrette and butter,” he said. “I thought, ‘Did I select some weird accommodation?’ But then I realized no accommodation makes any sense for me to only get chips, an apple and vinaigrette.”
In a TikTok video, Sheler dipped his chips into the dressing, poking fun at the random assortment of ingredients.
“It is vital to get it right, and we are disappointed in Chartwells’s management of the quarantine meals process,” NYU’s online statement says. “We and Chartwells are correcting the situation promptly.”
Meredith Rosenberg, a Chartwells spokeswoman, told CNN in a statement that there is no excuse for what happened.
“These students are already in a less-than-ideal situation and we feel terrible that their meals weren’t delivered when expected, or that they received incorrect meals, parts of meals, or meals that were not appetizing.”
With nowhere to go or anyone to see, Sheler said “food is kind of like the one factor that makes your day feel like it has any motion to it at all rather than just sitting in your room.”
Danielle Gould, 19, a returning sophomore from Los Angeles, California, said since she lived in the dorms last year, she did some grocery shopping ahead of her quarantine. Friday marks her third day in her dorm.
“I can’t even imagine for the freshman, doe-eyed coming to NYC for the first time, their parents drop them off and they’re stuck with this,” she said. “It just really sucks when you’re by yourself and you look forward to food and then it’s a cookie and salt and pepper and balsamic vinaigrette.”
Gould said she understands that both students and the university are figuring things out in these unprecedented times, but she wishes there was more communication ahead of time so students could prepare by grocery shopping.
Dietary restrictions and a lack of calories
The lack of complete meals is just one part of the problem.
Dorothy Akpovwa, 19, flew in from Georgia and has been in quarantine for three days.
She told CNN on her first day in the dorms she received all three of her meals but the following day she didn’t get dinner until 10 pm.
One of the meals she received was a watermelon-cucumber chicken salad – a mix that she quickly took to Twitter to express her disappointment about.
“THIS is what NYU gave us to eat yall,” she tweeted. “Looks like im going to look like a skeleton once quarantine is over because imagine me eating this. How does this food combination even make sense?”
She told CNN sometimes the meals don’t meet the suggested total calorie intake for a day, which she finds worrying.
Chartwells has added additional staffers and shifts to make changes to avoid this from happening again, according to Rosenberg.
“Although we did make plans and prepare for this, we missed the mark, and we are committed to fixing this right away and providing the dining experience that the students, NYU, and we ourselves expect,” she said.
On Thursday the school said every student affected would get a $100 e-giftcard to spend on food delivery, according to a school statement sent to CNN.
But still, no one should expect smooth sailing.
Sheler said his resident assistant felt bad for Sheler’s dining experiences so he ordered dinner for him from a food delivery service. It took over two hours to arrive.
“They’re supposed to deliver it to our door and it just never came,” he said. “I went down to check on it twice within two hours and they had just lost it, I guess. My dorm manager was frustrated so he went out and ordered it again.”