As if adjusting to new work standards and having to say goodbye to beloved family dinners isn’t difficult in and of itself, first-years also have to deal with limited and expensive on-campus dining options at the Dobbs Common Table (DCT) and The Depot by Kaldi’s Coffee.

Student dining plans have changed entirely due to COVID-19, and there are fewer options than ever before. Nevertheless, first-year students have managed to find personal favorite meals and locations around campus. Muriel Statman (24C), Devi Arora (24C) and Tiffany Becker (24C) have been making the best out of their options, but their criticisms are no short list.

While her favorite dining option on campus is The Depot by Kaldi’s Coffee, because of its egg bagel and avocado toast, Arora expressed discontent with the DCT’s predictable menu. Though the DCT’s premade meal options are limited, Arora stated that as the semester has progressed, more options have been added.

“It is always the same stuff,” Arora said. “Chicken, broccoli and rice, which is good, but it’s a little repetitive.”

Becker, on the other hand, found fault with the dining hall’s operating hours and the meal plans’ structure and cost. Becker believes the meal plans should include more Dooley Dollars and less meal swipes, as many students struggle to use all of their swipes over the semester.

The DCT’s dinner hours, which end at 8 p.m., also coincide with student lab class sessions that run from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., so many of these students skip out on dinner entirely. Kaldi’s, however, closes at 10 p.m., which gives these students an alternative, albeit more expensive, food option.

Becker finds the meals at the DCT to be balanced and nutritious — balanced if you don’t mind overindulging in the same vegetables for every meal, despite the DCT’s myriad of stations. The portion sizes, however, are large enough to feed a village. Becker said she always feels full by the end of her meal.

Though critical of the meal plans Emory offered to first-years, Becker complimented the DCT for its transparency. She noted that the dining hall features detailed descriptions of all of the ingredients for each dish, making it easy for students with dietary restrictions or allergies to avoid certain foods.

While upperclassmen on campus enjoy a wider range of meal plans, first-years are limited to two options: Plan 19 (19 meal swipes a week and $400 Dooley Dollars) and Plan 14 (14 swipes a week and $200 Dooley Dollars). Statman enjoys the Plan 14, and notes the meal swipes are sufficient and the DCT is most convenient. She also frequents Cox Hall, as they now accept meal swipes. 

Some students, like Statman, appreciate Emory’s meal exchange program, which accepts meal swipes for on-the-go meals at various locations, including Cox Hall, the DCT, Eagle Emporium and the Emory Student Activity and Academic Center Cafe. 

“[Staff at the DCT have] been really adaptive since the semester started,” Statman said. “Move-in weekend, there were very few options, but there has been a lot of improvement and I have been happy.” 

As a vegetarian, Statman’s diet is limited, but she believes the dining hall staff have been accommodating by offering extra options for students with dietary restrictions. All dining areas offer gluten-free, Kosher, Halal, vegan and vegetarian options, while maintaining nutritional value. 

While some first-years have plenty of complaints about the rigidity of the two meal plans, operating hours and the meal’s repetition, others laud their options. As students navigate campus, they are continuing to find the most suitable dining hall and meal routines for themselves along the way.