As students returned to universities around the country, there were reports of “nightmarish” meals that reminded people of the infamous Fyre Festival meals. IU’s last update of the COVID-19 dashboard said 21% of the more than 500 quarantine rooms on campus were full, meaning that at least 100 people are eating in Ashton this week.
Quarantine food is provided by IU Dining and Catering. Freshman law and public policy major Jared Cohen said he has been paying using his pre-existing meal plan. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks are supposed to arrive at 8 a.m., 12 p.m. and 5 p.m.
Prices range from $1 for a piece of fruit or a Nutrigrain bar to $15 for a dinner of roasted chicken with seasonal vegetables. The options are typical cafeteria fare: a few different types of wraps, pizzas and sandwiches, a brisket and mac and cheese combo plate, a small variety of breakfast options and soft drinks, snacks and candy.
Initial reports are not as grim as those coming from other institutions — New York University was sending people lemons as snacks, according to BroBible.
Cohen has had some bad experiences though. He said a yogurt was “disgusting,” a burger was “honestly gross” and made him feel sick and he’s paid for several items that have never been delivered.
“I got a salad the other day that was just. . . warm. I didn’t eat it. The top felt like it had been left in the sun for two hours,” he said.
His favorite meal was the brisket with mac and cheese, which he said arrived cold but was generally fine, though not anything to write home about. Freshman environmental management major Ethan Iversen said his favorite meal was roast chicken with green beans and rice, adding that the meals that arrive the warmest are the best ones.
Iversen said he doesn’t think it’s nearly as bad as people on TikTok or his friends, including Cohen, are saying.
“Jared is a complainer,” he said. “I take everything he says with a grain of salt.”
Iversen said that there isn’t a lot of variety, but his food typically arrives more or less on time, though not always warm.
“They’re swamped, there’s always more people arriving, and they’re doing the best they can,” he said. “They do make a lot of empty promises because they just need to shut kids up. They do say things that just aren’t true.”
Iversen also said he’s been kind of lucky, since he doesn’t have any food allergies or restrictions, so he’s been able to order a variety of meals.
“Basically, if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, your options are fruit cups, Impossible burgers and salads,” he said.
Iversen brought some snacks with him, but the rooms do not contain refrigerators or microwaves, so his options were limited. He’s also been ordering a lot from DoorDash, which adds variety but still always arrives cold — he said it takes at least 45 minutes for a delivery to get from the drop-off point to his door.
Cohen often orders from Panera through DoorDash to avoid eating the IU catering food, though he can’t do that for every meal because of the cost.
Iverson said that he thinks they deliver packages and meals one at a time, resulting in slow turnaround, but he doesn’t really know how they could improve the system.
“I appreciate what they’re doing,” he said. “I don’t think they’re that bad.”
“The food seems like an afterthought. I understand that the food isn’t the most important thing, our safety is, but if I’m going to be here for over a week I’d like to not eat gross food,” he said. “They did have a lot of time to prepare for this.”
Despite the perils of occasionally cold, boring food, Iversen said he doesn’t want to go home. He’s already paid for tuition and a meal plan.
“I’ve gotten a lot of homework done, I have had time to reflect and read and think about life,” Iversen said. “It’s kinda nice. I’m just looking at it in a positive way, there’s no sense in being mopey.”
Cohen had some final advice for his fellow students:
“People need to be taking the whole pandemic thing seriously, because staying in Ashton for over a week is not fun,” he said. “Going out to a party or hanging out with your friends isn’t worth it.”