A couple months ago, I wrote an article critiquing the new dining plan. Perhaps I am writing this article now because I was a little bit too harsh. Or it could be because I have gone to the dark side.
Yes, I have the dining plan. I am now on the “Any 12” plan, so for $10.76 a meal, I get my choice of 12 breakfasts, brunches, lunches, or dinners per week. To be honest, I actually really like it. But let’s just say I’ve been taken hostage by dining and I now have Stockholm syndrome.
One thing I like about the dining plan is the fact that it is all-you-care-to-eat. Personally, I’ve got a bit of an appetite, and it’s comforting to know that I’m getting the most I can for my money. The food definitely is not bad either. I find that there is always plenty to eat. I look forward to the variety, and between the multiple dining halls, I am never concerned about not having anything to eat for dinner (not that I’m a picky eater to begin with). It is a far cry from the “rice and whatever-meat-is-on-sale-at-Shaw’s” meal plan I had before. Plus, I save so much more time.
As an MIT student, time is a precious resource. When I had to cook, not only did it take time to prepare and cook meals, but it also took a good deal of time to go grocery-shopping. The grocery shuttles make lugging groceries easier, but not so much more convenient. Walking is easy for those who live closer to main campus, but quite time consuming when you live in New House like me. Biking with a month’s worth of groceries makes you look ridiculous. Take it from me.
On top of that, it is never fun to see a foot-tall pile of dishes waiting to be cleaned because you forgot about them all week in a p-setting frenzy. It is way easier on my psyche when I can stop what I am doing, grab a quick and appetizing meal, and then return to work. In the past, I would constantly worry about when I was going to find time to make dinner. On occasion, I would be so busy that I would just skip meals. That’s not particularly healthy. But now, with the dining plan, there are no more dishes to worry about, there is no more cooking to worry about, and there is no more hassle.
Speaking of health, I’ve greatly increased my intake of vegetables and whole grains since getting the dining plan. It was often a struggle for me to keep a lot of vegetables fresh for long periods of time, so out of frustration, I would not get them, or I would resort to the less-healthy canned or frozen versions. I am also much more inclined to eat things like quinoa, brown rice, legumes, and other healthy foods since they are fresh and readily available at dining.
It is also nice to get away from my work for a little bit and socialize with friends over some grub. I often see friends I don’t normally get to see because we have different classes or don’t have time to meet up on a regular basis. Friends are generally there when I go to the dining hall. This provides a moment, even if brief, during which I can forget about my projects and papers and just enjoy some good company. It provides much needed psychological refreshment after spending an entire day with my head buried in my books and assignments.
Admittedly, I have eaten my previous words. The food is great, and it is pretty good for you. You can eat until you are satisfied, you save time, and it’s an easy way to catch up with friends. But I am not going to say the dining plan is perfect. All of the concerns raised in my previous article still stand; the issue about swiping in multiple times during a single dining period is still unresolved, the idea of having unused meals roll over from week to week has also been left unaddressed, and yes, there are still complaints about how much students are being charged for dining. But it is all about weighing the cost and the benefits.
Would I recommend the dining plan to a friend? Yes, I would. Would I tell them that the dining plan is the be-all and end-all? No, most certainly not. I hope that the public opinion is still taken into account, and that the system is altered, even if slightly, in the coming semesters. Until then, happy dining.
Kristian Fennessy is a member of the Class of 2014.