The reason students are so upset about NYU's quarantine meals

Meal delivery services are so expensive, aren't they? According to the Trendy Money blog, the popular meal plans they tried cost between $10 and $15 per plate. NYU's meal plans, which are something that all first-year, transfer, and visiting students residing in NYU Housing are required to get, also range from about $10 to $15 per meal depending on the size of the plan purchased (more meals equals lower cost per meal).

While ordinarily NYU does not deliver, as students on a meal plan generally eat in dining halls, all that changed for a few weeks as many students were required to quarantine. While the dining hall chow may not be restaurant quality — after all, complaining about horrible food while nonetheless gaining the "freshman 15" is an age-old college tradition — the quality and quantity of meals delivered to those quarantining were especially horrible. Add bored students plus TikTok, and soon those bad meals became newsworthy.

How bad are the meals?

The brown-bag meals delivered by NYU's food vendor, Chartwells, were problematic, to say the least. The New York Times ran a story on the debacle in which they mentioned that students' allergies and special needs or preferences had been ignored, with vegetarians receiving meat meals and those who preferred a gluten-free diet getting bread. (Regular bread, not the gluten-free kind.) Other students complained of receiving unripe fruit, food that smelled as if it were going bad, or food that was otherwise just plain wrong. (A lemon slice as a side dish?)

Worst of all were the reports by some students who complained that they weren't getting any meals at all, including a girl who posted a sign on her door begging the meal delivery people to stop skipping her room. Another student decided to do their part by starting an Instagram page with the express purpose of collecting and delivering donated food to the starving dorm residents.

What NYU did to fix the problems

One thing the school did at the outset, even before meal quality became an issue, was to comp the meals. While this TikTok video about how things are "literally getting out of control" references the $3000 meal plan check for a semester's worth of food, The New York Times reports that all the quarantine meals were served without cost to the students.

Once the university became aware of the problems with their food delivery service (which, to their credit, occurred several days before the Times story broke), they issued a statement apologizing for the difficulties they were experiencing with this "never-before-tried operation." They promised to address the issues by adding an extra shift and hiring more food service workers as well as staff designated to deal with student complaints. (It's New York after all, the city where complaining is treated as a sport.) Even these measures didn't work, however, as Washington Square News reports that the university gave each quarantining student $30 worth of GrubHub vouchers per day amid calls for them to cut ties entirely with Chartwells.

How dining looks at NYU these days

As the quarantine measures were only meant to be temporary, meal delivery is no longer needed and all 14 NYU dining locations are now open for business... sort of. State guidelines still prohibit indoor dining, so food is only being served takeout-style. According to NYU Eats, students are encouraged to check out the online menus so they'll know exactly what they want to order before they get there, or to even pre-order via the GrubHub app. When it's time to eat, students enter the dining hall — masked of course — and pick up their to-go meal, which they then pay for with a cashless method (meal plan, campus cash, or card). As to where those meals can be eaten, students can still congregate outdoors, although outdoor picnicking might not be so pleasant once winter hits. That leaves common areas and also dorm rooms.

While NYU might wish for their meal delivery fail to be dismissed as just another mess in a moka pot now that it's behind them, it might not work out that way. According to NYU, on-campus students pay $78,742 for two semesters (Yikes! That's nearly $315,000 for four years!), so they might reasonably expect something a bit better than PB&J in a bag.