Today’s students consider food sustainability less important than students five years ago did, according to the results of a new Harvard University Dining Services survey.
This fall, 18.32 percent of students who answered HUDS’ question about sustainability indicated that it was “not important,” reflecting a steady decline in how much this issue matters to student respondents.
“[That] seems strange to me,” said George S. Qiao ’18. “It is one of the most important issues of the world today.”
The annual survey, conducted by HUDS in September, asks students various questions on all aspects of dining hall life, including allergies and diets, customer service, and overall satisfaction.
“We use the survey as a benchmarking tool in part to make sure that we’re remaining consistent and strong semester to semester,” said Crista Martin, HUDS director for marketing and communications.
Almost a quarter of Harvard students responded to the survey, although freshmen did not receive it by e-mail at the request of the Freshmen Dean’s Office and instead responded to flier advertising.
Dean of Freshmen Thomas A. Dingman ’67 said his office has heard that students are experiencing “survey fatigue.” The FDO cut down its own survey and asked HUDS to wait until next semester to ask freshmen for more information, Dingman said in an e-mail.
This year’s new grill menu items have been a hit with those surveyed, with more than half saying they were very satisfied. Still, a change to at least one of the new items is coming, in the wake of student feedback.
“We replaced the highly processed Boca burger with two new vegan alternatives, which are locally made, but neither had the same level of protein the Boca burger had,” Martin said. “So we’re actually working with the vendor to increase the protein in at least one of them. People love the flavors but want more protein.”
For the themed brunch held every spring semester, surveyors opted for “French Bistro” as this year’s theme, chosen by 348 respondents, while “Great Gatsby” followed close behind with 331 supporters. The Feb. 15 meal will include foods like tomato bisque, crispy French toast, crepes, and sorbet.
The survey incorporated some open-ended questions, including one asking for suggestions for entrees. Some of these will appear on the winter menu.
“We have already written the winter menu, so we can take some of those suggestions and plug them into the menu, because they are easy like a baked potato bar,” Martin said.
New items will replace the weekly grill specials when the winter menu starts.
Martin said survey results should be appearing in the dining halls in the next couple of days and noted the many compliments that students gave the dining halls and the people who work there.
“They are wonderful about thanking their team, and that’s really lovely and important,” Martin said. “Our teams are working hard to make sure that they’re providing the best possible experience for everybody.”
—Staff writer Kamara A. Swaby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @SwabyK.