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When in doubt, write a petition! This seems to be a mantra at Harvard, and as of last Monday, nearly 2,000 Harvard students have signed onto a new one calling for the restoration of hot breakfast to all upperclassmen dining halls. We can’t quite bring ourselves to sign on.
Undergraduates already have access to basic breakfast options across the Houses, including hot oatmeal, toast, and boiled eggs. Students who want more extravagant fare have Quincy House and Annenberg Hall available to them. As we’ve stated previously, we support expanding hot breakfast to a single house in each neighborhood (with an eye toward our long-suffering friends in the Quad), but we see no reason to insist on its return to every house.
College students aren’t known for the early hours they keep, and pouring money into the earliest meal of the day would likely be a waste. Most of us didn’t eat breakfast even when hot breakfast was universally available, and we don’t think its return will substantially change people’s decisions.
Students who do skip breakfast are restricted to eating their daily meals between 11:30, when lunch service across all Houses starts, and 7:30, when dinner in all Houses except Dunster ends. Such a narrow eight-hour interval brings us dangerously close to a type of intermittent fasting known as time-restricted eating. Too many students face an unsavory choice: Either restrict their eating to a short time span in a manner that could hurt their physical and mental health, or buy overpriced food in Harvard Square (which disproportionately burdens lower-income students) or from UberEats (which has its own ethical problems).
Instead of reintroducing hot breakfast in all the Houses — a program that cost roughly $900,000 per year before it was cut in 2009 — Harvard should invest money to expand and improve the existing food options. First and foremost, dining hall hours should be extended so that students’ dietary needs are better met; this includes shifting FlyBy hours so that students who have class all afternoon do not have to skip lunch. Harvard should also expand options for students with dietary restrictions, and should provide nutritious food at all meals — for example, fresh cut fruit and real berries to replace sugared strawberries and blueberries at breakfast. Such an improvement in nutritional quality should further extend to Brain Break options, which serve an essential purpose for students who get hungry while working for four, five, or six hours after the dining halls end dinner.
Beyond our doubts about the merits of hot breakfast, we also resent the hyperbolic argument advanced in the petition that Quincy Dining Hall staff are overwhelmed. It is doubtful that students wait in long lines outside Quincy clamoring for hot breakfast, as one HUDS employee claimed. We support HUDS workers, and if dining hall staff are truly overrun because of the demand for hot breakfast, then the administration should hire more staff; however, we do not need to see an expensive program — which would likely cost the University over a million dollars — reintroduced to our dining halls instead of more important reforms. Many of those million-plus dollars, we suspect, would be wasted on food that goes uneaten.
There is plenty that Harvard can do to better promote students’ wellbeing, and funding for such initiatives is not unlimited. Although we reaffirm our support for the expansion of hot breakfast to one House in each neighborhood, we would rather see money spent on extending dining hall hours and offering more nutritious options than on reintroducing a historically underused service within every House.
Hot breakfast would be nice! But there’s no such thing as a free lunch.
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.
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