While some students living on campus find the Penn Dining meals to be satisfactory, other students with vegan and vegetarian diets criticize the lack of options and freshness of their meals.
All dining halls and cafés on campus are closed this semester except for Gourmet Grocer, the Starbucks at Commons, and 1920 Commons, which is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner on weekdays and only brunch on weekends. While 1920 Commons offers vegan and vegetarian options at their various food stations, students said the food lacks variety and oftentimes find themselves eating the same meal for the entire week.
Stations at 1920 Commons include the Very Veggie station, which serves vegan and vegetarian options for lunch and dinner, and the new SimplyOASIS station which serves foods without gluten or any of the eight most common food allergens such as milk, eggs, and peanuts, Penn Business Services Director of Communications and External Relations Barbara Lea-Kruger wrote in an email to The Daily Pennsylvanian.
“When designing our café menus, keeping student’s special dietary needs top of mind is always a priority," Lea-Kruger wrote. "Even with the challenges of operating out of only one building - we worked diligently to look at the menus and come up with options.”
Students said hot vegetarian and vegan meals such as vegan soup, pizza, and pasta tend to run out quickly, and many of the pre-packaged meals lay outside without being replaced for up to a week. The most common vegetarian and vegan meals are veggie burgers, quinoa salad, hummus wraps, and other salads, which students describe as having been repetitively served.
"They'll have the same entree for a week straight, so this week they had a roasted vegetable wrap and I've eaten it this entire week so far," College senior Katherine Hancin said. "Once, you start eating something for several days in a row you start to get sick of it."
College senior Zoe Osborne agreed, adding that the vegetarian options are limited on any given day.
“I often go into the dining hall, do a lap around it and come out with like two sides that I can eat and that I want to eat,” Osborne said. “There’s just not that many options for vegans and vegetarians. I just wish they took a little more time designing [vegetarian and vegan meals].”
Osborne added that dining workers will often have vegan and vegetarian foods in the same container as meat, contaminating the food vegans and vegetarians can eat.
Students living on campus without any dietary restrictions said they are overall pleased with the food options at 1920 Commons. Some, however, find the restrictions placed on the number of entrees and sides disappointing for a dining hall that was traditionally all-you-can-eat.
Students can choose up to one entrée, three sides, all of which are pre-packaged, and one drink at 1920 Commons, Hancin said.
College first year Arielle Ketchun said although she is not using the dining plan to the fullest, she has no complaints about the food.
Wharton first year Braulio Gonzalez is also satisfied with the food, but said the restriction to the amount of food he can get per swipe is disappointing at a dining hall that was once all-you-can-eat and for a meal plan that costs $2,597 for one semester.
All first-year students living on campus are required to be on the First-Year 220 dining plan which offers 220 meal swipes and 150 dining dollars to cover approximately 19 visits per week for fall 2020.
Hancin hopes that Penn Dining will provide a greater variety of meal options for vegans and vegetarians in the future and replace older meals more frequently throughout the week.
"I normally don’t have any issues with access to food at all, because there are normally a lot of dining halls open or you can go to Pret [a Manger] and there’s a lot of variety, but now [1920 Commons] only has one [vegan or vegetarian] entrée for seven days straight and if you don’t like that entrée, you’re kind of out of luck," Hancin said.