Nearly 2,000 Harvard students have signed onto a petition advocating for hot breakfast service across all upperclassman dining halls.
Harvard’s undergraduate-led Student Labor Action Movement launched the petition last week in collaboration with the University’s dining hall workers' union, UNITE HERE Local 26. The statement urges the University to expand hot breakfast offerings to all upperclassman dining halls to promote student wellbeing and alleviate the workload of dining hall workers.
Harvard University Dining Services currently only serves hot breakfast in Annenberg Hall and Quincy House every weekday, while other upperclassman houses offer continental breakfast.
Petitioners argue the limited hot breakfast service “places an unnecessary burden” on dining hall workers at the limited locations and “deprives many students of a filling meal in the morning.”
In a statement, HUDS spokesperson Crista Martin defended the breakfast offerings.
“Harvard University Dining Services works in close coordination with Harvard College to determine the appropriate level of operations to support the College’s goals regarding House life, community and equity, as well as to manage financial resources efficiently without compromising community goals,” Martin wrote. “We see a similar balance managed by colleagues at peer institutions where dining is a self-sustaining service.”
The Harvard Undergraduate Association expressed support for the petition in its November email to students.
“With these grievances in mind, we are joining with SLAM to demand Harvard offer hot breakfast in every dining hall, with the appropriate staff to do so,” the email read.
In 2009, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences slashed hot breakfast offerings in the 12 upperclassmen houses in a budget cut, saving the University roughly $900,000 per year at the time, but HUDS expanded its hot breakfast service to Quincy House in 2021.
SLAM organized the campaign for hot breakfast expansion in solidarity with the dining hall workers’ union. The organization’s emails publicizing the petition say the demands have garnered the support of the union’s stewards.
UNITE HERE Local 26 also circulated its own petition, which advocates for the expansion of hot breakfast across more undergraduate dining halls in an effort to create “more jobs to help the overwhelmed Halls that currently have Hot Breakfast.”
The union’s petition claims that the current hot breakfast service “ignores important realities” on campus.
“Undergraduates do not have the time or the ability to travel to Quincy or Annenberg in the morning; workers and their workspaces cannot serve the high volume of students who do make the trip,” the petition reads.
Charlene V. Almeida, who has worked for HUDS for 20 years and is currently based in Quincy House, said the current hot breakfast model has placed a “huge strain” on workers.
“I’m starting to feel bad because we’re serving over 600 students for breakfast,” she said. “They'll be waiting outside for the hot breakfast, waiting in long lines because [the dining hall workers] cook everything at once, but the kitchen is small.”
Syd Sanders ’24, an organizer for SLAM, said the petition aims to ensure all students have access to hot breakfast. While Quincy House and Annenberg Hall are open to all students for breakfast, Sanders said students living in the Radcliffe Quadrangle are disadvantaged.
“For students, it’s a wellness thing, and it’s a quality of life thing,” Sanders said.
HUDS spokesperson Crista Martin wrote in an email that the petition “contains several misleading statements.”
Martin wrote that, in 2009, Harvard College reduced the board rate in response to the 2008 financial recession. Subsequently, HUDS was “restructured to gain efficiency in the least utilized meal period of the day.”
“No staff layoffs (job losses) occurred in this change,” she wrote.
In 2021, HUDS expanded its hot breakfast offerings to Quincy House.
“Since the addition of that service, multiple jobs representing an additional 155 labor hours have been added at Quincy House just to support service of the enhanced breakfast menu,” Martin wrote.
Keith E. Hylton ’24, a student in Lowell House who signed the petition, said students should have access to hot breakfast in their own houses.
“It's important for the students to be able to actually get breakfast in their house without having to make long treks before class,” he said.
Hilton added that the continental breakfast options are “limited.”
Sanders said SLAM hopes to garner as many signatures as possible before delivering the petition to administrators.
“We're not going to back down from this,” Sanders said. “This is obviously something that is needed on this campus and it's a shame that we don't have.”
—Staff writer Audrey M. Apollon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Staff writer Sophia C. Scott can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @ScottSophia_.
—Staff writer Claire Yuan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @claireyuan33.