Webb redesigns its food culture


Stephen Li ('21)

Masume Gholipoor, a member of the dining hall staff, serves a freshly-cooked bowl of food from the Chinese bar.

From the new Chinese bar to the revised ordering policy, Webb has implemented major changes this year in regards to fostering its food and dining culture. Here are a few tips on how to navigate the new system and stay healthy along the way.

This year, the dining hall introduced a new outdoor lunch stand called Chinese bar. Despite the initial confusion over the name of the stand, it is not a “global flavors” bar, but in fact a “Chinese” bar. Dishes include beef and broccoli, stir-fry, Chinese condiments, and fried rice. For the many international students at Webb, who originate from China, this food offers a taste of home. The bar was introduced this year for two main reasons: 1) to add more options to the menu and 2) to provide food faster by shortening lines. 

Ken Rosenfeld, Dean of Campus Life, said, “The dining hall staff trained really hard during the summer in order to master the techniques of making authentic Chinese food… some of them coming in at five or six in the morning, and they are 100% committed. They [the dining hall staff] are not simply feeding the community, but also pleasing them, and that’s a nearly impossible task.” 

Mia Wang (‘20) said, “I like Asian food a lot, so I really appreciate how the dining hall staff is making an effort to incorporate more variety with the Chinese bar. I especially enjoy the bar’s new spicy sauce, and it’s my new go-to place to grab lunch.”

Another major change to Webb’s food system is their modified off-campus ordering policy. Last semester, after noticing a spike in recent years with Webb’s ordering trends, the Committee on Student Norms decided to limit the frequency of students ordering food. There are four primary reasons behind why new restrictions on food ordering are in place: safety, health, community, and equity. 

Safety: Due to the Hooper renovation, more people are entering campus. This build-up of off-campus visitors is only intensified with the many cars making their way to the loop. One of the administration’s goals is to cut down the number of people coming on campus; hence, they  reduced the number of days that students are allowed to order food. 

Health: Eating in the dining hall is generally a healthier choice than ordering food on apps like Postmates, Uber Eats, and DoorDash. Students may not know what is in the food they are ordering, but at the dining hall, there are a variety of healthy options to select from. If students ever have any questions about the food, they can always ask the dining hall staff. 

Community: There are very few times when the VWS and WSC schools can come together. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are community-gathering periods, times where the entire school should gather, eat, and converse. When people order, they tend to stay in their rooms and not interact with the community.

Equity: While some students can afford to order every day, others are not able to because of financial reasons. Webb’s new policies encourage everyone to dine together with the same meals, reducing the rift between those who can and cannot order on the daily. 

Dean Sarah Lantz said, “It is going to be a challenge to make this shift, but I am already seeing people understanding and adjusting. I have faith in our community that we can make this change and stick with it.”

Akira Hori (‘20), WSC all-school president, said, “I’m not so happy with the ordering policy because it’s one of the ways to relieve stress for boarders. Certain meals that we like such as comfort food makes us feel better in general and therefore releases stress.”

Leo Chang (‘21), a WSC boarding student, said, “There’s a negative effect to the ordering policy. People aren’t eating because the dining hall food isn’t what they are used to ordering. I don’t think there is an economic disparity or social divide, and it’s much more convenient being able to eat whatever you want every night.”

Dean Rick Duque said, “I know that at Webb, some people have deeper pockets and other people’s pockets aren’t as deep. One of the thoughts behind the new policy is creating a more level playing field for everybody. I understand that in life, some people always have more while others have less, but at Webb that’s not what it’s all about. It’s about creating an environment where we are thinking of everybody rather than just one group.”

Adjusting to Webb’s new ordering policy may prove to be tough, but it is feasible with the support of the dining hall staff. Their creative efforts with the Chinese bar and commitment to shared, healthy dining are commendable, and they are continuing to redesign food culture to satisfy more and more of the community every year.