Annenberg must answer all | Opinion
Entering Annenberg for the first time transports you. Wrapped in exquisite stained glass and with the eyes of Shakespeare and Dante plunging you into the heart, the grandeur often associated with Harvard becomes unmistakably palpable. Originally intended as a way to honor Harvard graduates who fought for the Union during the Civil War, Annenberg became the dining hall for freshmen in 1994, serving approximately 3,400 meals a day from 2009.
The freshman experience is forged at Annenberg, where freshly graduated high school students share meals with their peers, forming bonds that span the length of their time at Harvard. My class, the Class of 2024, missed out on this meaningful experience, having instead had to deal with bagged take-out meals during our first year on campus. Thankfully, Annenberg is now back to normal capacity and functioning for the Class of 2025 (and all other breakfast-only classes).
While having a meal at Annenberg is a trivial action in terms of the Harvard experience, the ordinary event of freshman dining in the dining hall is contrasted by the magnificent architecture of the building itself. This juxtaposition is a bit jarring, only adding to Annenberg’s character.
It’s already overwhelming to be a freshman at Harvard; eating in a dining room frequently compared to Hogwarts only makes this worse. As Matthew Nekritz ’25 described it in an interview on Annenberg, “This is the most beautiful place I have probably ever eaten. I mean, it’s just crazy how pretty. Nekritz explained how “you come in and there are always so many students in there and there is just a very, very good energy in meeting people and talking, especially the first week of school.”
Food connects us intrinsically, because eating together is a community activity. Students forge new relationships around meals, sometimes seeking refuge in company or in a hot soup during the freezing Boston winter. We bring to the table fond memories of our own family dinners, of cultural heritage passed down from hand to hand by assembling a dish or stirring a pot.
Because food has vital cultural and religious significance, many students have dietary needs specific to their cultural and religious beliefs. As Harvard is teeming with students from all over the world with a multitude of backgrounds, it is important that this diversity is also reflected in fair and easy access to food for students whose religion and culture require respect for certain diets. Many students from different cultural communities have expressed dismay at the inability to access the food they are actually able to eat at Harvard.
For many students who keep kosher, like Leah Baron ’25, finding a full meal in Annenberg can be a challenge. Baron explained to me that she had “only eaten once at Annenberg for a meal” and that the kosher options offered by Annenberg are “generally a little insufficient, in the sense that there really are none. not a lot”. Although Baron described breakfast as possible to eat in Annenberg, as there are options such as cereal, fruit, and yogurt, lunch and dinner are more difficult. She told me that Annenberg only offers “a few frozen dishes, like American cheese, sliced cold cuts, and frozen pizza bagels” for people who keep kosher – which don’t really make for a full, fulfilling meal.
Devangana Rana ’25, who is vegetarian, also described to me how unsatisfying her options are: “I go to dinner around six and I’m hungry around nine or half past eight. . She went on to say that “the meal options are sometimes limited” and some days they “just don’t look appealing.” Rana also added that a few of her friends who follow a halal diet “sometimes don’t find it very appealing either.”
Like Fahim Ahmed ’25, who tries to maintain a halal diet, told me that “there have been times when there were very limited options out there, sometimes there weren’t even any options. of halal meat, and I think it’s a little hard to Stick to trying to eat Halal. Ahmed maintains, however, that for the most part, “they’ve been pretty decent about it.”
If food connects us, then difficulty accessing food has the potential to disconnect us. Plus, students should get their money’s worth – Harvard requires all students to have the same meal plan, but students who are forced to find meals elsewhere in places not covered by the meal plan don’t just not getting value for their money.
The fundamental experience of eating at Annenberg is to bond with peers over a shared meal. If students have trouble accessing food that they can actually eat, it negates the dining hall’s community-building function here at Harvard. Annenberg and all other dining halls should provide satisfactory and adequate meal options for all students, including those with special dietary needs.
Connecting with others during meals not only informs a large part of the Harvard experience, but a large part of the human experience. Everyone deserves to have nutritious and easily accessible food, allowing them to better integrate into the communities of which they are a part.
Shanivi Srikonda ’24, editor-in-chief of Crimson Editorial, lives at Quincy House. His column “Nooks and Crannies” appears every other Wednesday.
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