As another semester on campus dominated by COVID-19-related restrictions kicks into gear, this board would like to offer an appraisal of some of the recent changes to dining on campus.

First, we congratulate Sodexo for adding a new option to Upper Usdan food court: Swirl offers smoothies and smoothie bowls in three flavors. This new vendor is a welcome addition to the Usdan Student Center food lineup, making for a great snack option. We are also impressed by improvements to the pasta station in Sherman Dining Hall — now known as Marinara — that offers a variety of made-to-order pasta dishes and Mediterranean salads. Additionally, a new Rustic Roots station offers plant-based meals on a daily basis, bringing much needed vegetarian options to Lower Campus. Sherman has also expanded its weekend brunch options, offering an impressive array of toppings for a rotating selection of french toast, pancakes and waffles. Lower Usdan also added a noodle station last semester that has proven popular, which we admire. Additionally, Sal’s Pizza — housed in The Stein — has begun to offer a specialty item of the week, such as mac and cheese, wings or chicken parmesan, in addition to its rotating selection of pizzas.

As with last semester, there are frustrations with the Bite U app. Although many of the kinks present during last year’s rollout have been resolved, the app remains a challenge at times. Primarily, problems occur when an order is placed that cannot be fulfilled — such as if a vendor has run out of an item — as there is no way to notify the student of the inability to complete the order. Instead, vendors mark the item as ready to pick up, and they address the conflict when the student arrives and questions where their meal is. In addition to throwing a wrench in students’ schedules, the need to order in-person and wait around creates a greater opportunity for exposure to COVID-19 for both students and staff. However, one especially efficient aspect of the Bite U app is their “Talk to Us” feature, in which students can submit questions or report problems. In the experience of members of this board, using this feature has resulted in timely and effective support from the Bite team and their partners at Brandeis.

This board also calls for the availability of more meal swipe exchange options. We appreciate the limited availability at Louis’ Kosher Deli, the Hoot Market, Sal’s Pizza and the Upper Usdan food court, but we would like to see each vendor offer more meal exchange options and other vendors begin to offer exchanges. In particular, Einstein Bros. Bagels would be a fantastic addition, as Lower Campus is lacking in exchange offers, and campus in general has few breakfast options. Einstein’s already offers meal exchange options over break periods — students could get a sandwich, hot coffee or chocolate, fruit cup or yogurt and a small bottled water or orange juice for a meal swipe over the 2020-2021 winter break. We would like to see this option, or something similar, offered at Einstein’s throughout the academic year. 

With indoor dining closed and outdoor dining infeasible due to the freezing weather, we encourage those residing on campus to make use of Zoom to ensure that dining continues to be a safe and social experience.