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Returning NYU Students Document Quarantine Meal Chaos on Tiktok

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Three days into the campus’ two-week quarantine, students continue to share food reviews and smell tests of NYU delivery meals

Re-opening Continues Across Densely Populated New York And New Jersey Areas
One of NYU’s residence halls
Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

Today marks day three of the 14-day quarantine currently underway at New York University — and if Tiktok is anything to go by, the fall semester is off to an interesting start.

On Wednesday, NYU’s Manhattan campus welcomed back many of its international and out-of-state students two weeks early, given that Gov. Cuomo is currently requiring that out-of-state visitors self-quarantine for 14 days. As the New York Post noted this morning, students are stuck in their dorm rooms for the duration of that time and are only permitted to leave “for medical visits or to collect their three meals from the hallway,” which are provided by the university.

Unfortunately, the second half of that plan has proved to be a bit of a sticking point for the nearly $70,000-a-year institution. Within hours of arriving on campus, videos of pre-packaged salads, granola bars, pieces of fruit, and bags of potato chips began surfacing on social media platform Tiktok. In them, students shared stories of meals that arrived hours late, meals that never arrived, of eating breakfast for dinner, and eating leftover dinner for breakfast. Imagine a food scenario gone wrong, and chances are, an NYU student has made a Tiktok about it in the last 24 hours.

In an extensive statement posted to the university’s website, NYU spokesperson John Beckman acknowledged the problem, and said the university was working with its food vendor, Chartwells, to rectify the situation.

The university blamed the issues on the volume of the operation — 2,600 quarantined students, nearly 20 percent of whom have dietary restrictions — and the fact that the scale of the delivery operation was a first for the university and the food vendor.

“We recognize that when people are required to quarantine in their rooms by themselves, few things in the day are more important than looking forward to something nice to eat, so this is a particularly regrettable error, and a let-down for our students,” Beckman writes in his statement.

A zoomed in screenshot of watermelon and chicken in a plastic container. A Rice Krispy treat and an orange are visible in the background. Screenshot by Eater

Still, one dish in particular seems to have captured the internet’s attention: A watermelon chicken salad, which appears to consist of one part cubed watermelon and one part cubed chicken. Mixed greens and cucumber are also present in the dish — but, much like the meals themselves, the ingredients appear sometimes and not others. The students’ food reviews, smell tests, and cries for help are worth watching on Tiktok in their entirety, but this Twitter thread is a good place to start for the uninitiated.

As a social media platform, Tiktok lends itself to comedy — but the situation playing out at New York University actually bears room for concern, especially among students with dietary restrictions, food insecurity, and eating disorders. One student, who appears to have requested a vegan dinner, documented a bagged dinner that included a steak and cheddar salad and a plastic chocolate pudding cup made with milk. Many others reported that they had received fewer than three meals a day or that they received all three of their meals at one time.

In his statement, Beckman says NYU is now dedicating staff to prepare meals for those with dietary restrictions, adding more staff to respond to students’ complaints, and bringing on another food service provider to address the university’s needs, among other changes.