Calorie counters, smaller plates, and high chairs are just a few of Hewitt Dining Hall’s newest additions following renovations this summer. However, in light of some of these changes, students have voiced concerns that public calorie counting may expose private dietary habits, smaller plates may contribute to rationing food, and new high-tabled areas may restrict dining accessibility.
In response, Chartwells—Barnard’s new food service provider—has taken steps to address these concerns, including ordering bigger plates and reorganizing interior furniture.
Barnard dining has undergone major changes since its move from Aramark to Chartwells, including renovations to Liz’s place and changes to offerings and price points in Diana. Barnard partnered with Chartwells following protests from students against Aramark’s history of prisoner mistreatment. Chartwells was selected by a joint student-administration search committee, headed by Barnard’s Chief Operating Officer Robert Goldberg, because it scored the highest marks with the selection committee for their wide-ranging dietary needs and comfortable dining experience, as well as its commitment to social responsibility and lack of involvement with the prison industry.
In addition to changes in plates and seating style, Hewitt has added multiple ways to count calories in the form of calorie count posters near the entrance and on the walls of the hall, as well as a machine that provides the calorie count of any food item served.
According to a statement from a Chartwells spokesperson, the additions of the calorie counts are required by law under the New York City Department of Health, which states that any item served over 90 days of the year must be labeled with a calorie count or calorie range. Chartwells claimed that the changes were not intended to insinuate that calorie counting leads to healthier eating.
However, students have expressed that the calorie count posters and machine may prove triggering for students who struggle with food insecurity or eating disorders.
“I am trying to control my weight for health reasons so calorie counting can help me stay on my diet, but it definitely [can be] shameful for people with eating disorders,” Serena Franz, BC ’23, said.
Although the calorie counts are required by law, the machines appear to be drawing the attention of diners.
“I saw someone use the calorie machine a few days ago and I found myself staring at them, so I would personally feel so odd using it, but I am sure it can be helpful to some people,” Rob Jillian, GS ’20, said.
Students have also raised concerns about the size of the new main course plates, which are smaller than in previous years and are closer to the size of dessert plates.
“I always end up getting two or three plates of [food],” Delilah Beverly, BC ’22, said. “One plate just isn’t sufficient.”
Not only have the size of the plates raised issues, but so has the perceived intention behind them. Some students have questioned whether the change in plate size was linked to food rationing, in line with the introduction of calorie counts.
However, the Chartwells spokesperson denied that the plate sizes represented an effort to control dietary portions, but were rather intended to combat food waste. In response to student feedback, Chartwells plans to re-introduce larger plates to Hewitt. The plates are scheduled to arrive in one to two weeks.
Additionally, students have mentioned concerns with the addition of high chairs to the dining hall, with some students expressing frustration about clutter and not having enough space to eat comfortably, while others have been more concerned with accessibility for students with disabilities or injuries.
Chartwells has taken steps to respond to seating concerns, however. According to the spokesperson, the same day that a student had raised concern about accessibility, low-top tables were moved to the perimeter of the north dining room. Additionally, the dining hall now features 60 more low-top seats than in past years, along with a variety of other new furniture.
Students can look forward to certain definite changes, with bigger plates being shipped in soon and high chairs having been moved around. The calorie counters, however, are here to stay.
A previous version of this incorrectly article stated that 60 more low-top tables were added to Hewitt, rather than low-top seats.