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Students share thoughts on Stanford’s limited summer dining options

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For years, Stanford Residential & Dining Enterprises (R&DE) has left two dining halls open during the summer, a far cry from the usual array of 11 dining halls during the academic year.  Aside from these two dining halls, Arrillaga Family Dining Commons and Lakeside Dining, R&DE-operated cafes remain open, albeit some with modified hours. 

Despite there being far fewer dining options available over the summer, students living in most on-campus residences over the summer are required to pay for a meal plan. In the face of limited summer dining options, students have responded with praises, concerns and hopes for how these mandatory meal plans will serve them in the future. 

The cost-efficiency and timeliness of the meal plans have been lauded by students who are busy throughout the day and looking for a quick meal. 

“We’re getting quality food and we’re able to make it through the day with that, so I think [the meal plan is] really smart as opposed to having to buy your meals separately,” said varsity soccer player Kennedy Wesley ’23, who is staying on campus this summer.

To ensure the meal plan requirement is convenient for all students, R&DE has worked to provide accommodations for students with varying schedules. Students can place orders for additional meal services, like sack lunches and late plates, through online orders or with the dining hall manager or chef. 

“I think to-go meals are really convenient, especially in the morning-time when you have someplace to be, you’re going from place to place,” Wesley said.

While most students agree that the meal plan is convenient, the limited number of open dining halls does pose a problem for students in terms of location and variety. For students who aren’t located near either available dining hall, it can be time-consuming to go out of their way to dine. And while the two dining halls do satisfy student needs, some have voiced hopes that the dining halls will expand their summer menus to include more variety in the future.

“In the summer, dining hall operations – including the variety and frequency of menu offerings – are very similar to the academic year, except late night dining, classes in the Teaching Kitchen and other programs that take place during the academic year only,” wrote R&DE spokesperson Jocelyn Breeland in an email to The Daily. 

Seeing as the variety and frequency of menu offerings from each hall currently remains similar during the summer — but with only two of 11 dining halls open — students have expressed hopes that Stanford Dining will include a greater variety of menu offerings at summer dining halls in the future.

“Because I have a limited taste for what I like here, it usually gets saturated every time I come here and there’s not enough options,” said Andrew Peterson ’20. “So I usually only get three different meals over the course of three weeks.” 

Anthony Mensah ’23 agreed, saying that “it would be nice to be able to go to different dining halls with different themes.” 

However, it might not be practical or possible to increase the number of halls open over summer, given there are less students paying for meal plans. R&DE’s website notes that “there are administrative overhead costs – such as utilities – associated with keeping the space open, and these costs are funded entirely by meal plan fees. Requiring a meal plan ensures enough participation in the dining program to make serving meals – and keeping these important spaces open – financially sustainable.”

It is for this very reason, according to Breeland, that Stanford has its meal plan requirement in place – with exceptions only in place for students who apply for and receive a medical or religious exemption. Students can receive exemptions by submitting written approval from independent medical doctor or clergyperson, but those with exemptions are still required to pay an administrative overhead fee. 

Though R&DE doesn’t have plans to open up more dining halls for the summer, it is possible for Stanford to increase the summer menu variety to accommodate the sharp drop in number of halls. And some students are already on board.

Contact Anna Chiang at annac777 ‘at’ gmail.com.

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Anna was a high school intern for The Daily in summer 2019.
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