Jumbo Exchange: Dining experience

What you eat makes who you are. I remember that before coming to the States, I worried about whether or not I could get accustomed to American food. However, at the same time, I was really excited to dive into American food culture, which is obviously largely different from Japan’s. Today, I am going to talk about my daily experience of food in the States, especially in the dining halls on campus.

Tufts’ dining halls surprised me in a lot of ways. For example, they have a great variety of food. This includes not only iconic American foods like pizza, burgers, French fries and so on, but also many different countries’ foods, including Asian, Mexican, etc. Although there is no question that those foreign cuisines have been modified and localized for American taste buds, I appreciate the diversity, and I’m shocked by the effort of the dining halls to maintain it.

In addition to the international diversity, the dining halls offer various options for people with dietary preferences like those who eat vegetarian, halal, or those with celiac disease and so forth. While I could find a few halal foods in school cafeterias back home, the variety was relatively limited, and they did not have vegan or gluten-free food. That is why I was impressed by Tufts dining halls. I realized that while America might be infamous for its unhealthy junk food like burgers, American culinary culture has been developed by a diverse population with different backgrounds and is constituted by various types of food. You can seek out your own diet from a range of different options.

Another thing that surprised me was the price for a meal. It is two or three times more expensive than back home! Although given the variety and quality of the food, the price for the current service might be fair, I still believe that it is unaffordable for many students to have three meals every day in the dining hall.

This probably means that some students make do with cheaper, less healthy alternatives to the dining halls, and, worse still, that some students suffer from food insecurity, as seen in other universities and on our own campus. In a Feb. 21, 2017 Tufts Observer article titled “Food Insecurity at Tufts”, the author, through an interview with a nutrition and marketing specialist at Tufts Dining, explained that food insecurity on campus has become a socioeconomic issue, and also considered the question of whether Tufts Dining profits off students or not.

For a long time, I have considered America to be a country full of contradictions. My column today may be just about the dining hall, but I see a larger contradiction here. At first glance, by offering culinary diversity and good food, the dining halls fulfill their responsibility of catering to the dietary needs of all students at Tufts. However, the price of meals in the dining halls is not affordable and less accessible for a significant number of students. Just fascinating.