Student Issues With Food and Food Supply During Lockdown

Some NYU Shanghai students are seriously suffering from issues with food and food supply during Shanghai COVID lockdown.

(Photo Credit: Zijin Su)

Shanghai has been extensively locked down since the end of March. It has had a huge impact on the daily life of residents, including the NYU Shanghai community. A number of students began to experience problems regarding the meals provided to them.

“These problems didn’t start until the lockdown when I started to eat the box meals,” said Isha, a sophomore, when she described her experience. The food has caused a lot of first-time digestion issues for Isha for unknown reasons. She is also lactose intolerant so she can’t have yogurt, one of the precious subsidiary foods the school provides. 

Isha entered the WeChat group “JinQiao and JingYang Food Supplies” and ordered the vegetable package. It contained a variety of vegetables weighing 5kg in total. However, other problems soon emerged.

“Sometimes they appear as if they will go bad in a day or two. Even if you put them in the fridge, they will still go bad,” she said. “How can I eat them? I’m really worried to receive 5 kg of vegetables in one day. What’s more, I don’t know how to cook some of them. If it’s a box of vegetables that you don’t really know how to use, there’s not really a point in ordering it.”

Raghav Dembla, a freshman who lives in Jinqiao dorms, faced similar problems. Before lockdown, Raghav normally cooked for himself, so the banning of deliveries impacted him a lot. He had difficulties adjusting to the provided ingredients.

“The school offers us packages which contain a lot of vegetables. The problem is that we have not used most of those vegetables in the past,” he said. “I never ate them. I never cooked them. I even don’t know what they are. So I could only use the tomatoes and potatoes,” Raghav said.

Phoebe Lemon, a sophomore who also lives in Jinqiao dorms, is gluten intolerant. However, almost all of the snacks the school provides are bread or cookies. To ease her hunger, she has no choice but to eat them, resulting in stomach aches and digestion problems.

“When I asked the school, they literally said ‘we’re ordering extra meals, so you shouldn’t be going hungry’,” she said. “But even though the box meal tastes bad, it’s still not sustainable, it’s not sustaining my energy. I don’t have the energy to go to class or do schoolwork. That’s why I sleep because it will temporarily stop my metabolism so I’m not hungry.”

Additionally, the box meals the school provides only offer vegan and non-vegan choices. There is no vegetarian option. Therefore, the vendor doesn’t include eggs and tofu supplies are rare.

“I have a vegetarian friend who has been forcing herself to eat meat to keep herself full. I’m complaining, but that doesn’t mean there is only one student who wants to complain, right?” she said.

Though students who live in the dorms are suffering, some of those who live off-campus have a different problem – running out of food.

Shih-Kai Wu Papichas, a sophomore living off campus with his mother, has been in lockdown for 38 days. Their local vendor prioritized large groups as opposed to their small neighborhood. So, for four days, Shih-Kai’s family only had flour and water to make bread for survival.

“I was feeling really sad, but I still had to do my schoolwork. My mom felt sad, looking at me eating this,” he said. “The worst feeling for her was to see me not having a good time. She wished that at least I could get to the dorms for my well-being.” said Shih-Kai.

On April 15, Shih-Kai contacted Chancellor Tong Shijun through WeChat, asking for help. Tong immediately activated an urgent response system and contacted Public Safety. In no time, the staff knocked on his door and handed him a package of food, containing spam, milk, two big boxes of ramen noodles, vegetables, and vitamin C tablets.

“It really helped me a lot.” Shih-Kai said. “People living in Jinqiao and Jingyang at least still have food…At least they don’t have to eat bread all day. I don’t think I could have put up with it for too long without the school’s help.”

Chancellor Tong provided his statement on the current issues regarding the food crisis. “To change the situation, we need our students to endure for one more week. We expect the situation will turn dramatically within a week. That is the 21st of April, but we are not sure whether deliveries will resume at that moment,” Tong said. 

“The universities in Shanghai will provide students with enough support during this tough time. We’ve held a meeting with the NYU Shanghai Foundation and been working with parents as well. Let’s fight together and conquer the obstacles in the coming days together!” said Tong.

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