Cafeteria Concerns: A Look at Dining on the Beren Campus

By: Rebecca Kalmar  |  May 11, 2024

By Rebecca Kalmar, Staff Writer

One average Sunday night, a group of Beren students wandered into the Kushner Dining Hall in Yeshiva University’s 245 Lexington avenue building expecting to fuel up on a chicken dinner before the long school week ahead. However, upon entering the cafeteria, they quickly found that enjoying their evening meal was going to be much more complicated than they had imagined. In the cafeteria, water was raining down from the ceiling in multiple locations. 

Finding affordable Kosher food is difficult for anyone living in Midtown Manhattan. “When you’re buying food in the kosher world, it’s always triple the price as non-kosher [food],” explained a member of the Yeshiva University Beren Department of Dining Services. That struggle is amplified for Beren students who face difficulties with dining at YU, regardless of their two cafeteria options. Kushner Dining Hall on 245 Lexington Avenue is open six days a week, while Le Bistro Cafe is only open Monday through Thursday. Aside from the flooding, issues such as food quality and pricing make eating in the cafeterias a constant difficulty for students. 

“We are not getting enough bang for our buck,” said senior Rae Eisenstein (SCW ‘24). “Is the caf designed for students who commute who can bring food from their parents’ houses?” wonders Eisenstein. 

Issues with pricing are not limited to the weekday. One Beren student, who wishes to remain anonymous, expressed frustration over the fact that she needed to use a credit card instead of her own caf card to purchase meals when her sister visited for Shabbos. “My parents had to pay an extra $75 when I have $75 floating on my caf card that I would have used for her,” said the student. “That was ridiculous.” Unfortunately for many students, concerns are not limited to cost alone. 

For example, an international student who relies on the cafeteria for meals got sick after eating food there. The student said she got so ill that her “roommate had to take [her] to urgent care” and the cause was determined to be “food poisoning.” The only food the student had eaten that week was from the cafeteria. Questionable food quality was not a one time issue for this student. “It has happened before where I’m cutting up my chicken and notice it’s not cooked. One of my friends got terrible stomach issues from said chicken.” 

Alternative food options are offered at the cafeterias for those with dietary restrictions. However the quantity is often lacking. “They only have always one vegetarian option for dinner and that’s it [and] they’ve run out a lot of times,” stated Yaffa Goldkin (SCW ‘24), who is a vegetarian. Eisenstein, who also has dietary restrictions, added that these options are “unoriginal and have hardly any variation.” Such issues often deter students with dietary restrictions from going to the cafeteria to get food, which is especially problematic for those who rely on the school for meals. 

Another problem with the cafeterias is the space. Due to the structure of the class schedule, students often rush to get meals at similar times, leading to traffic that rivals that of New York’s rush hour. The problem is particularly notable at lunch, when it can become difficult to get a seat in the cafeteria, and students have to push past each other to get to different meal options. School officials have constantly claimed that the Yeshiva University student body is growing, and on some days it seems as though that the cafeterias already don’t have the capacity to house the current population of Beren students. Until steps are taken to address these concerns, with a growing YU student body, the cafeterias will only continue to get more crowded.    

Moreover, Yeshiva University students have access to dining facilities on both the Wilf and Beren campuses, and have noticed some differences between the offerings. “The boys caf always has better options in my opinion [and] their little market they have is a proper grocery store,” said Dalya Eichler (SCW ‘25).  

According to the official who works in the Yeshiva University Beren Department of Dining Services, the Wilf campus has “four time[s] the kitchen that [the Beren campus has] so unfortunately we cannot produce what they produce.” They explained that while Wilf has a grill, the Beren building is incapable of housing one. However, options like the pasta bar are available only on the Beren campus. It should be noted, however, that said “pasta bar” is a small bowl or two of often cold noodles and two smaller bowls of watery sauce options. Additionally, this pasta bar often runs out of food very quickly and is not always refilled afterwards. 

While this information explains the disparities between the variety of food options in the campus cafeterias, there are also supplemental dining options at Wilf that are not present on the Beren campus. In the same building as the Furman Dining Hall, another eatery called The Food Court offers a multitude of grocery items. Additionally, across the street is Nagel Bagel, a small location stocked with snacks, drinks, sandwiches, salads, etc. While Milner’s Mart, the supposed Beren equivalent of Nagel Bagel, is open at night after the cafeterias close on the Beren campus, most of the offerings are packaged snacks with no fresh meal options. Milner’s Mart is also staffed by student employees, and although it is beneficial to provide students with such jobs on campus, this often leads to inconsistencies with the operating hours of the Mart. Too many times have students arrived at Milners Mart to find that it is not open even when it is supposed to be without any explanation. However, Nagel Bagel is primarily staffed by non-students, meaning that it is always open when it is supposed to be.      

While certain aspects of the dining experience on Beren leave what to be desired, there is something students can do about it. Rivka Marcus (SSSB ‘24), the current Director of Administrative Services and a former Student Liaison for food services, has some suggestions. “Our food services department here at Beren is amazing. Any request that can be accommodated, is,” claimed Marcus.  

Marcus explained that the school request form is “an amazing resource (find it on Campus Groups) that your liaisons use to direct conversation and suggest improvements to departments.” Marcus added, “The main issue with feedback is that it’s not usually productive.” She further elaborated that when students make a complaint it should come with specific suggestions on what dining staff can improve. As the official in the Yeshiva University Beren Department of Dining Services said, “we [are] here for the students [and] we [are] happy to do so.” So ask away! 

Photo Caption: A photo from Kushner Dining Hall, taken on the night of the flooding.