How Stuyvesant Eats During Quarantine

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Issue 17, Volume 110

By Madison Cheng, Arpita Saha 

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A typical day in the life of a Stuyvesant student’s stomach typically goes like this: forgo breakfast during the morning frenzy, grab a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich from Ferry’s for lunch, and come home at 6:00 p.m. for dinner after a long, hard day at school. Whole Foods, Terry’s (or Ferry’s, no discrimination here), and the halal cart are usually the most popular places to grab a bite near Stuyvesant, but with the school closed and quarantine in place, the diet and food habits of many Stuyvesant students have changed.

For sophomore Eleanor Chin, her diet has substantially improved since the beginning of quarantine. “Before, during school, I wouldn’t really eat breakfast or lunch regularly, and if I did, it would be something quick like yogurt,” she said. “Now, I usually eat full meals, and there is less American food and more Asian cuisine because we have to eat as a family and because of the convenience of eating homemade food rather than takeout.” Chin’s homemade favorites are salmon with a panko topping, Korean beef lettuce wraps, and Chinese vegetable dishes such as bok choy and yau choy. Even though Chin’s diet has improved, for the most part, she confessed that she has also been having more desserts such as brownies and pineapple upside-down cake.

Junior Irene Hao shares Chin’s experience. Before quarantine, she would buy breakfast from places near Stuyvesant such as Dunkin’ Donuts or the breakfast carts along Chambers Street. She would eat the school lunch or buy an afternoon snack on her way home. “I grew up on my mom’s home cooking, and as much as I loved it, I was excited to be able to have my own money and have the choice to select my meals,” she said. During quarantine, she has occasionally craved a Chipotle bowl, halal food, or something from Ferry’s or Whole Foods, but since Hao does not have easy access to these eating places, she has mainly been eating takeout from local restaurants in addition to her mom’s cooking.

Hao’s mealtimes have also changed during quarantine: “Whereas before I would arrive at school and leave school and eat lunch at a certain time, now there isn’t a bell schedule to follow, so I just eat or grab a snack whenever I’m hungry.” These days, Hao mostly eats intermittent snacks as opposed to three major meals a day and sometimes she only has one or two complete meals.

Because Hao is spending more time with her family, she has been getting involved in the goings-on in the kitchen, like making sushi with her family. “My sister and I cut the vegetables, meat, and seaweed, and my parents rolled them up. They weren’t pretty like the ones you’d buy at a store, but I was glad to have a taste of something besides fast food,” she said.

But for others like sophomore Marie Check, fast food in quarantine is out of the question. Check finds that her diet is improving because of the quarantine. “During school, I didn’t eat warm-cooked lunches, and I think that my meals now are more balanced in terms of eating vegetables, protein, and carbs,” she said. Now that mornings are no longer as hectic, she is able to eat a more filling breakfast and can eat more nourishing foods instead of snacking throughout the day. Yet she revealed the most unexpected change was how the coronavirus has directly influenced the types of foods she consumes. Check noted, “My dinner has stayed the same because I always ate it at home, but one thing I have noticed is that my family is eating less meat because it is very expensive in grocery stores.” Check mentioned that meats such as beef, in particular, have spiked in prices and are in high demand. These factors combined with the closing of many workplaces have also led to widespread food insecurities. As many Stuyvesant families grapple with these changes, their food sources are altered as well.

Junior Aki Yamaguchi has also undergone substantial changes in her eating habits. “I would say the main thing is [that] I started eating three meals a day that are full meals. During the school year, I [didn’t] really eat breakfast, with a coffee and croissant being the rare exception every now and then,” she said. She still maintains a typical busy schedule packed with school and sports but now has more control regarding when and what she eats. “I’m definitely falling more into a routine compared to the regular school year where, thanks to the busy schedule of my family, dinner was all over the place, and we often didn’t eat at the same time,” Yamaguchi added. However, she notes that on the flip side, she’s started a habit of eating food late at night and snacking, a commonality among many others. She concludes that despite this, the changes she’s made to her diet and schedule are healthier than before quarantine, though she’s not confident they will be maintained when she goes back to school, as most scheduling is simply out of her control.

On a similar note, senior Chris Choi has also gone through a major change in his diet and begun to cut out meat and animal products from his diet completely. This change was not entirely caused by quarantine. Choi was watching YouTuber CosmicSkeptic’s videos, specifically the ones about a meat eater’s case for becoming a vegan. Choi was convinced by the moral arguments mentioned in the videos: “I [hadn’t] heard of them before, so it changed my entire perspective on the idea of eating meat.” One argument Choi learned was the unknown pain sensitivity of animals and how we cannot just consume animals even if their pain sensitivity is lower than that of humans. This understanding combined with others and the overall sentiment that forgoing meat is healthier and better for the environment has convinced Choi to become vegan.

Choi tried to avoid consuming meat and other animal products entirely but was met with resistance from his family. “When I gave back a plate of curry to my parents with the meat uneaten, my parents started getting uneasy. I went to my room, and I overheard them talking about the ethics of eating meat and how it seemed to them [that] it was basically trampling on God’s gift,” Choi explained. Even though Choi is pressured to consume meat by his family, he tries to avoid it whenever he can.

While these changes may not last forever, there’s no doubt that quarantine has drastically altered how Stuyvesant eats, whether it’s becoming more in touch with ethnic roots, exploring a more balanced diet, or simply sharing meals with loved ones. In an age of uncertainty, what we eat and when we eat may change, but the food itself is our constant. From sharing a meal with friends and family across the table or through another side of a screen, it’s more than fuel. It’s culture and identity, and most of all, it brings us together in these crazy times.