Story by | Lara Kine
Photo Credit | Darshini Umaidurai
For the last two years, Sodexo’s catering has faced mixed reviews. This year, the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic seems to have further impacted the quality of the dining experience in Yale-NUS College, with students across years complaining about the lack of variety and diminishing quality of the food provided in the dining halls.
This is especially so among vegetarian students who lament the excessive use of legumes and the limited filling options available. One student, Anjali Venketram ’24, commented that she “finds [herself] eating rice and the same vegetables every single day” which is unfortunate because “there [are] a lot of [dishes Sodexo] never explores.”
Yiran Ning ’23, stated that she “[appreciates] that plant-based options are more mainstream [in Yale-NUS]” as opposed to in other locations but the variety of food is “sometimes limited, especially during breakfast.”
Although students who do not eat meat acknowledge the “restraints of the [COVID-19] situation”, as Ning would describe it, more meatless options would be appreciated. When comments were requested, Balijit Sekhon, representative for Sodexo, stated that “Sodexo provides a variety of options for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and Grab & Go.”
However, as per the daily dining menu as seen on the student life website, for week 4 of the semester, only three out of seven live-stations were vegetarian and only two were vegan, despite Mr. Sekhon’s comment that “Sodexo’s live stations offer vegetarian options if the style of the dish allows it”.
Earlier Octant articles commented upon how during previous years’ Green Lunches, dining halls with carnivorous options were packed, while vegetarian serving halls were substantially less populated.
However, Sodexo’s budget permits expensive meats like lamb sections for roasts and beef for burgers while plant-based equivalents are sorely lacking.
Many students, including Miku Seko ’24 report in passing that the Grab & Go options are more appetizing, whether they include meat or not. However, this comes with a catch—not only are the portions too small to be filling, with safe-distancing policies of this semester, it also is not permitted to request more portions, as in years past.
Furthermore, according to my own experience, Grab & Go options disappear from the dining hall at astounding speeds, and replacements are far outpaced by demand. This is inconvenient for students who have to grab lunches quickly and dash off to socially-distanced, far-flung classrooms in the corners of University Town.
Other students reported that they were generally unenthused by the food options available. More concerning, Darshini Umaidurai ’24 found a metal screw that was roughly two-centimetres long in their meal.
Even after sending a complaint under the urgent criticisms option on the feedback form, they received no reply. This was followed by a direct message to Halcyon Dining’s Instagram page, which only replied “thanks for informing us” and provided no other information. A Sodexo feedback form was sent out on August 24 on the Yale-NUS College Community Facebook Page but there has since been no follow up on the results.
On the subject of the screw, Mr. Sekhon commented that an investigation was made, but presented “inconclusive results.” Furthermore, Mr. Sekhon emphasized that “the safety and well-being of the students and the Yale-NUS College community will always be our number one priority—which is why [Sodexo] has conducted a full audit and re-evaluation of our food production methods to avoid [another] similar [occurrence].”
Overall, students at large want to see a change in their meal options. We recognize the challenges of the current situation and appreciate the efforts Sodexo makes, but we are not entirely satisfied with what we have received.