Coming into my freshman year at Michigan, I was giddily concerned about packing on my freshman fifteen within months of being on the unlimited dining plan. Due to COVID-19, University of Michigan Dining halls have changed a lot in the past few months. Here's a week in the life of Michigan dining halls during COVID-19.

The most noticeable change in the way students get their meals. To grab a meal, students now have to play a "follow the dot" game into the dining hall, eventually splitting into two buffet-style lines where staff place food of your choice into takeout boxes. Student are also no longer permitted to dine-in at the dining halls. During the summer and early fall, the university provided large tents for students to dine outside. Now that the weather is colder, students must eat in their dorms. 

The dining hall food has also undergone some dramatic changes. What is the dining hall food like today? To answer that question, I documented seven meal experiences I've had in the dining hall to provide an honest look at a week in the life of Umich dining halls during COVID-19.

Meal #1: Salmon with Veggies & Raspberry Cake

Hannah Feng

I don't typically consider myself a picky eater, but this meal did not do it for me. The salmon lacked flavor but tasted fresh enough. The chimichurri added an interesting zestiness to the salmon. The vegetable blend was a sad mix of undercooked butternut squash, bland green beans, and plain onions. The veggie stir-fry didn't fare much better; the veggies were cooked but under-seasoned

Hannah Feng

The raspberry cake, however, tasted amazing. It was moist, had just enough raspberry filling in the center, and was covered in a smooth buttercream frosting. 

Overall Rating: 4/10

Meal #2: Lamb Korma with Rice & Naan

Hannah Feng

As a general rule of thumb, I try to stay away from the dining halls' Asian cuisine. However, today I decided to give the lamb korma a try. As usual, the rice was hard and undercooked. The korma itself was slightly spicy with tender chunks of lamb but an oddly grainy mouthfeel. The cilantro added a nice touch of aromatics to the tomatoey curry. Although the curry didn't taste authentic, it was decent overall. The brussel sprouts were nicely roasted, soft but with just the right amount of bite to it. A bit more salt and lemon juice would've finished off the dish perfectly. The naan would've been better served hot, but it was a nice compliment to the curry. 

Overall Rating: 6.5/10

Meal #3: Pasta with Mushrooms and Buffalo Chicken Wings

Hannah Feng

This meal was a mish-mash of food concepts and cuisines. The creamy pesto pasta resembled Alfredo sauce more than pesto and lacked salt, but it paired well with the Portobello mushrooms, which had an interesting smoky, caramelized flavor. The bok choi and Korean pork loin was a bit disappointing, as they both lacked any real flavor, let alone Korean tastes. The buffalo chicken wings were quite good, as they were breaded and had a distinct peppery flavor. 

Overall Rating: 7/10 

Meal #4: Cheeseburger & Fries with Teriyaki Shrimp

Hannah Feng

This meal was a low-point in dining hall meals. Typically, cheeseburgers are available every day, but I don't usually get them unless the food selection is really lacking. This was one of those days.  The cheeseburgers come pre-wrapped, and always consist of a thin, dry patty which is decent with sauces. The steak fries were potatoey but (a common theme here) lacked salt. The teriyaki shrimp was clearly made with frozen, pre-peeled shrimp, and tasted pretty bland, no teriyaki flavor to be found. The broccoli and cauliflower tasted like pretty standard cafeteria veggies, boiled without any seasonings. 

Overall Rating: 3.5/10

Meal #5: Moroccan Chicken with Veggies and Pasta

Hannah Feng

This lunch looked pretty promising at first glance. There was great color contrast, from the bright red tomatoes to the forest green swiss chard. Sadly, most of it didn't taste as good as it looked. The Moroccan chicken was very dry and the only seasoning I could taste was cumin, and the stuffed pepper was overpowered by only tomato flavor. The pasta with palomino sauce was great: a sort of creamy tomato and basil sauce. The broccoli salad was also delightful, a symphony of flavors from crunchy, creamy broccoli to tart pickled onions, smoky bacon, and sweet dried cranberries. 

Overall rating: 7.5/10

Meal #6: Shrimp Po' Boy, Kale, & Ravioli

Hannah Feng

Ravioli and tortellini tend to be crowd-favorites at the dining hall, so I was thrilled to see that they were serving ravioli with ricotta filling today. The sun-dried tomato sauce that enveloped the ravioli was creamy but lacked much tomato flavor, except for the occasional sun-dried tomato hiding in the sauce. The shrimp po' boy was quite delectable, with the crunchiness of the fried shrimp and coleslaw enhancing mouthfeel. A sour or spicy element would've elevated the sandwich to the next level. The kale was unevenly cooked, but the cooked pieces were tasty. 

Overall rating: 8/10

Meal #7: Beef Nachos & Broccoli

Hannah Feng

This meal brought me right back to my high-school cafeteria. The chunky beef, fake nacho cheese, and pre-packaged chips all fit the "cafeteria food" mold perfectly. It tasted alright at first, but after a few bites I got pretty sick of it. I felt a bit gross eating, essentially, a cow and a mutilated version of its milk. The broccoli was a bit undercooked, but was a much-needed addition. Overall, I would not opt for this option again. 

Overall rating: 3/10

Overall, it's been a bumpy couple of months eating at the dining hall. Some days the food is on par, but oftentimes it's bland or even inedible. If you're planning a visit soon, be sure to check out the menu before coming. If you're a parent reading this, be sure to show your kids some love through home-cooked food! They could really use it right now.