MIT Dining to serve on-campus undergraduates during Fall 2020

Meals will be served by dining staff and not self-serve

MIT Campus Dining is providing service at nine undergraduate dorms and the Stratton Student Center this fall. Undergraduates living on campus are required to enroll in a 14-meals-per-week plan featuring the same menu at all locations. 

Meal plan costs have been subsidized with a $984 COVID-19 dining subsidy and a dining allowance of $2,500 included in financial aid gives students additional flexibility, according to the 2020 Undergraduate Campus Guide. Students may add up to $150 of optional dining dollars.

The MIT Dining website writes that breakfast and lunch are served in the Student Center’s Lobdell Food Court. Dinner and weekend brunch are served in students’ assigned residence halls. Food will be delivered to the four open cook-for-yourself dorms and served by dining staff. All meals, including breakfast and lunch, were served in residence halls during Quarantine Week. According to a dining FAQ, there will be no late night dining at Maseeh or Simmons this fall “due to inter-house meal restrictions.”

MIT Dining is also launching the GET online ordering system to allow students to order meals in advance. Students may use the GET website or mobile app to select meals “up to six days in advance,” access an “order-ahead pickup line for expedited meal service,” and “pre-schedule meal pickup times,” Mark Hayes, director of MIT Dining, wrote in an email to the MIT community Sept. 9. 

Starting Sept. 10, students may use the GET ordering system to pre-order lunch at Lobdell. Hayes wrote that MIT expects to expand GET service for residence hall dinner and weekend brunch “soon.”

 All food is served in takeout containers. Meals will be served by dining staff rather than self-serve “due to public health guidance,” the FAQ writes. Instead of an “all-you-care-to-eat” system, “students will go through the serving line once and can ask for extra servings.” Additionally, MIT Dining “want[s] students to maintain healthy lifestyles and receive proper nutrition,” so “the focus this year is generous portions.”

The same menu will be served across all locations. MIT Dining resized its menu this fall to “a limited number of entrees and sides” to allow “higher food quality, speed of service, and portability,” the FAQ writes. Additionally, MIT has fewer culinary staff than usual years due to the need for physical distancing in kitchens. 

MIT Dining will work with Bon Appetit and Disability and Access Services to accommodate students’ food allergies and dietary restrictions, the FAQ writes. Kosher, halal, and vegetarian options are available. 

The Baker kitchen will produce vegan food and the McCormick kitchen will produce “vegetables and side dishes,” with no meat or animal products allowed in either kitchen, according to the MIT Dining website. Maseeh’s “Oasis” kitchen will prepare food without the eight major allergens (milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy, and wheat). Salads, desserts, fruits, and snacks will be “individually pre-packaged,” and other foods will also be packaged and served separately to prevent cross-contamination. 

Hayes wrote in an email to The Tech that pre-packaged meals mean a “different catering model,” resulting in “lots of time getting our delivery systems down and ensuring that students with special dietary needs are taken care of.”

The MIT Dining website writes that several preventive measures are being taken to help ensure a safer dining experience, including providing take-out meals “to reduce dining area density” and “expedite meal service,” ensuring that staff use PPE at all times, and practicing “enhanced cleaning procedures in kitchens and dining rooms.” Additionally, Plexiglas partitions have been installed at counters and pickup locations, and all meals will be served in compostable or recyclable containers. 

Students are required to wear face coverings in all dining locations except when eating at a table. Floor markings guide students to maintain six feet of physical distancing, according to the MIT Dining website.

Hayes wrote to The Tech that “on behalf of the dining staff,” students should “keep doing their part by wearing face-coverings and maintaining six feet of distance between each other when in line.” Hayes also expressed appreciation for the “students and house teams for their patience and feedback as we get going” and the dining staff who “have worked so hard to re-invent our approach to dining in just a few months.”

TechMart is open weekdays in the Student Center Coffeehouse Lounge, the FAQ writes. Dunkin’ Donuts and the Cambridge Grill are the only retail eateries expected to reopen in the building, although their opening has been “delayed,” the undergraduate guide writes. Additionally, vending machines will not be operational this fall “due to building security concerns and sanitation.” 

Eric Shee ’24, a first-year student living on campus, wrote in an email to The Tech that “the food has been good!” Shee commented on the many “choices in entrees,” “selection of fruits [and] salads,” and variety in beverages. Entree choices have included lasagna, pasta, roasted chicken, beef curry, mashed potatoes, lentils, and rice.

Shee wrote that the second floor of the Student Center has been “cleared out” to serve lunch, while nearly “everything else in the building is closed.” Students swipe their ID cards to enter the building, and “markings on the floor” guide students to the serving area.

Shee wrote that while students “were confined to eating in [their] own rooms” during Q-Week, there are now “people eating out on the grass outside of the student center, and it feels much more lively.”