NYU students complain about meager meals while quarantining in dorms

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- International and out-of-state NYU students who are under mandatory quarantine in dorms prior to the start of classes are taking to social media about the meager rations they are receiving.

Ricardo Sheler, 17, described his first meal delivery as "kinda funny," when what was labeled a chicken Caesar salad was actually just chips, apple vinaigrette and butter.

"I'm like, did I choose some weird dietary accommodation?" he said. "It didn't make sense to me. And then I'm like, wait, there's no dietary accommodation that would entail chips, apple vinaigrette and butter, because I don't think anywhere in there is the nutritional part of that meal."

He took to TikTok, where his video racked up hundreds of thousands of likes.

"I made the video, and then they gained a lot of traction and there's like all these other kids from NYU with the same dilemmas," he said. "Whether it's not enough food, their food hasn't been delivered at all, completely wrong food for their dietary accommodations, just all these different like mishaps and mess ups. But they're somehow all uniquely bad, so that's why this has kind of been like a collective storm, people just raising their voices about this."

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The incoming freshman, who plans to study sustainable urban environments at the engineering school, said the university has acknowledged there was an issue with the food vendor. But he hopes the school will do more to rectify the problem.

"We can't leave our suites, and that's something that most people haven't quite understood about this," he said. "Because there's certain levels to different quarantines, like, oh, quarantine as in you can only leave for essential things like food. But we're in quarantine as is...If NYU wants to uphold the operational integrity of this quarantine and make it comfortable for students, they have to do their part. Because we're doing our part, sacrificing our time, making sure that our whole community is safe."
The university, where tuition is nearly $70,000 a year, has responded to the issues, blaming the volume of students' requests.

"We are aware of the students' complaints, which are valid," NYU spokesman John Beckman said in a statement. "This is a never-before-tried operation for us and our food vendor, Chartwells. But it is vital to get it right, and we are disappointed in Chartwells' management of the quarantine meal process. We and Chartwells are correcting the situation promptly."

The school underscored the sheer volume of special dietary requests and the number of students as a notable challenge for large-scale meal deliveries.

"There are over 2,600 students quarantining in our residence halls, and every day they are supposed to get three decent meals," Beckman wrote. "Nearly 20% of the meals are specialized -- kosher, vegan, halal, etc. We recognize that when people are required to quarantine in their rooms by themselves, few things in the day are more important than looking forward to something nice to eat, so this is a particularly regrettable error, and a letdown for our students."

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Other students under quarantine, like Annabelle Skala, who requested vegan meals, also shared now-viral videos of their shocking deliveries.

Skala, 18, posted an unboxing of lackluster slices of tofu, an apple, a sandwich roll and a piece of definitely-not-dairy-free string cheese.

"The lack of any sauce or spices really tied it together," she told ABC News with a laugh. "More than anything else, I'm disappointed in NYU. As a multi-million dollar institution, they have the resources and have had plenty of time to organize a solid dining plan for quarantined students."

Full statement from NYU Spokesman John Beckman on Difficulties with the Meal Delivery Service:

We are aware of the students' complaints, which are valid. This is a never-before-tried operation for us and our food vendor, Chartwells (ie, large-scale delivery of meals to student rooms. There are over 2,600 students quarantining in our residence halls, and every day they are supposed to get three decent meals. Nearly 20% of the meals are specialized-kosher, vegan, halal, etc.). But it is vital to get it right, and we are disappointed in Chartwells's management of the quarantine meals process. We and Chartwells are correcting the situation promptly.

We are responding to the complaints by:

1. adding a shift to start making meals earlier in the day for delivery, so they are ready for delivery earlier,
2. adding staff to respond promptly to student food complaints,
3. dedicating food-service staff to the speciality meal preparation so that the right number of speciality meals are getting to the right people at the right time,
4. adding staff at the residence halls to deliver the meals to the rooms more promptly,
5. bringing on an additional food service provider so there is additional capacity,
6. and we have authorized staff in the residence halls to order meals through regular delivery services or to provide money to students to order delivery themselves if the food that shows up isn't good enough.

"We recognize that when people are required to quarantine in their rooms by themselves, few things in the day are more important than looking forward to something nice to eat, so this is a particularly regrettable error, and a let-down for our students. We are dismayed that this didn't go off as planned, we and Chartwells apologize to the students, and we are committed to correcting this promptly."


(ABC News contributed to this report)

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