Fruit! Whether it is a refreshing dessert or a healthy snack, we all appreciate having it as an option to supplement our diet of Red Door sandwiches and other CDS fare. Even students who regularly cook their own food or eat out will often partake in open kitchen fruits for their daily dose of vitamin C or potassium. But are Caltech students satisfied with the array of fruit that CDS provides?
In case you did not know, CDS offers apples, oranges, and bananas at most dining locations (i.e. open kitchens, Browne Dining Hall, Red Door Marketplace, and Broad Cafe). Students who crave the rare blueberry or strawberry can find them at 7:00-11:00am at Broad Cafe on the Nutella Toast or at Browne on the French Toast at Grill. During the weekend brunch at Browne, there are often berries served with waffles or pancakes, and sometimes the staff are willing to give a cup of berries. Other fruits are found in the assorted fruit tray such as grapes, cantaloupe, pineapple, honeydew, and more; these are often found in open kitchen or in cups at Browne/Broad. Recently, CDS has also put out bowls of seasonal fruit in open kitchen – this week’s specialty was pears and peaches!
Some students have complained about the quality of fruit provided, such as very unripe peaches or bruised apples. “The apples are often mealy or not sweet,” complains Anna Li (EAS ‘23, Dabney). Several other students attested that the apples were often “mid”, but there were many reports of contentment with the bananas and oranges. Others – such as Maddie Swint (ChE ‘23, Avery, Lloyd) – dislike the assorted fruit cups because “these fruits are a mix and force each person to get every fruit” which can contribute to food waste. She also reports that some of the cups are left in the fridge long enough to “begin to ferment” and “taste a little funny”. I can recall a few times last year when I got a fruit cup at Browne or open kitchen only to find mold growing on the fruit at the bottom. Eric Lee (‘26, Avery) thinks it is all a matter of timing. He often gets fruit cups at Browne and is pretty satisfied with them. “I usually get there pretty early, so I actively choose the ones that look good.” Timing seems to be the case with other fruits as well; sometimes the fruit selection is better in the mornings and sometimes fruit is only ripe for the taking near the end of the week. Jaime Reyes, Director of Dining Services, asserts that CDS staff check the fruit in the kitchens and change them out often. He states, “We get a new produce delivery every day, except for Sundays.” (He and the Food Committee encourage you to report any clearly spoiled fruit to CDS staff or to the Food Comm feedback form.)
The most common fruit request from students, especially seniors who have witnessed the glory days of CDS, has been to bring back the berries. For any confused first years reading this, in the pre-pandemic time, CDS used to provide berries in open kitchen. In 2019-2020, “we had huge vats of berries in open kitchen every day. There were two vats that held probably 5 lbs of berries… each vat had a different berry (think raspberry, blackberry, strawberry, or blueberry) that would change out weekly,” Maddie recalls. “After we returned to campus in 2021, the berries were completely gone. Instead, Caltech began ordering the miscellaneous fruit cups we have in open kitchen now.” Part of the reason for discontinuing the vats of berries, according to Jaime, was that students would take cups and cups of berries within the first 15 minutes of open kitchen every morning – sadly preventing the majority of the population that woke up after 7:15am from enjoying the berries. This was not the only instance of Techers squirreling away berries – there was also the “Great Berry Scandal of 2019”. Hayward Melton (EE G1) recalls the summer after his freshman year when Browne Dining Hall had a self-serve waffle bar where you could add berries to your waffles. As one might guess, students would often take cups of berries without making a waffle, which prompted CDS to send out an announcement asking students to only take the berries that they will eat on their waffle. “It blew up so hard… the student outcry in support of the berries” was immediate; they were outraged that they were not allowed to take berries as they pleased despite paying for an expensive board plan. Similar complaints are still present today. Despite being forced to pay for a ~$2.5k meal plan per term, it seems that food variety and quality has remained at a reduced level since the pandemic, and some argue that the berries are the most obvious example of this. If the berries ever made a return, would Caltech students restrain themselves from hoarding them? Would you?
It is clear that while students appreciate some of the fruit already provided, they would be very grateful for greater variety. In interviewing for this article, I heard numerous pleas for cherries, watermelon, plums, more pineapple, mangoes, grapefruit, and – of course – more access to berries. What do YOU think about the fruit on campus? Are you also a supporter of #bringbacktheberries? Contact your local Food Comm rep to let us know OR fill out the Food Comm Feedback form at bit.ly/caltechfoodfeedback!