The Year in Review: Mess Committee

Members: Bharat Gupta (Convener), Rishika Srivastava, Purushottam Mishra (Co-Convener), Nishtha Sinha, Arpit Agarwal (nominated), Soumya AK, Devagya Jha, Mohit Mehta (nominated), Tanaya Rajwade, Yusrah Khan, Yashika Singh (nominated), Vivek Srivastava, Shahbaz Brar

If there is one thing on campus everyone has an opinion about, it’s the mess menu and what should be on it. We bring to you the review of the Mess Committee for the academic year 2015-16, while hoping that any criticism of the Committee doesn’t lead to our debarment from the mess.

Functioning of the Committee

Interestingly, the Mess Committee had three nominated members this year in addition to the ten elected members. We have reasons to believe that this arrangement was necessary because only a few elected members of the Committee did the heavy-lifting on the new student-run mess system. The Mess Committee itself proposed a general body meeting on the issue of switching back to a contractor-based system earlier this semester, highlighting clear strains within the Committee with regard to the level of responsibility the elected students shouldered in the past year. Given we elect these representatives ourselves, this is perhaps something to reflect on regarding the choices we make, without discounting the efforts of the few members who did step up to the plate.

As with several other Committees, the Mess Committee has faced bureaucratic difficulties and red-tapeism when it comes to procuring ingredients, changing suppliers and paying bills because of college procedures. It’s worth keeping in mind that the mess also caters to visitors staying on campus for competitions and events organized in college, which adds an additional burden on the Committee of coordinating with the event timings, arranging for separate seating and arranging additional ingredients.

Nutrition? What nutrition?

A persistent concern students have had with mess food has been the choice of dishes, several of which are less than healthy, along with the manner in which even the healthy dishes are cooked. Last year, the Mess Committee initiated discussions on the possibility of opening a salad bar to address the lack of nutrition in the menu, but the lack of responses led the Committee to abandon the idea. As a saving grace, the mess has seen an improvement in the variety of, and frequency with which, fruits are served. While some would say the mess menu only reflects what students request, and perhaps only the minority is health-conscious, one sometimes wonders if there lies a responsibility with the Mess Committee itself to ensure there are healthy options on the menu, as one of four eating options on campus.

Spoiled for Choice: Menu

The Mess Committee has attempted to revise the menu multiple times in the past year, with two primary menus (one for summer, one for winter, depending on the seasonal availability of vegetables), and additional changes based on palate response. We’ve seen some hits (dahi wada, cold coffee) and misses (vegetable cheese rolls, macaroni) with the new dishes, but we suppose the important part is the Committee is trying to innovate, and is actively accepting and incorporating student suggestions into the menu.

Another concern that has been raised about the mess menu is the lack of regional diversity – the mess menu largely caters to a North-Indian diet, which many of us might not be used to. At the same time, we understand the Mess Committee’s limitations in terms of the skill-sets of the mess workers, given that most of them are locals from Delhi. (Yes, idli-dosa in the mess will never be like in MTR in Bangalore. Understandably so. Deal with it.)

007

The Mess Committee is pretty bad-ass. It conducts raids in hostel rooms to reclaim what rightfully belongs to it (plates, spoons and glasses), and even debars students from eating in the mess if mess fees are unpaid. In all seriousness, the former was a much-required move and we applaud the Committee for attempting to take action against students hoarding mess cutlery, since it affects the overall hygiene standards for all mess-users (recall the fungus-infested photos sent by the Committee last semester). As for the latter (debarring students from the mess), the lesser said the better, although we have been informed that the Committee was under pressure from the administration, and students were being uncooperative and hostile towards Committee members.

Fun fact: Momo preparation starts around noon, and usually goes on till 8PM, since the workers have to fold the dough themselves. For those of you who were wondering why we can’t have momos more often.

Handling accounts, deciding mess worker salaries in accordance with the law, checking deliveries, monitoring preparation of food… A student-run mess is no easy job, and given the difficulties it has faced, we think the Mess Committee has done a commendable job the past year. Looking ahead though, the question of whether we are responsible enough as a student body to continue with the current system, still looms large and is a decision we will have to make soon.

In other news, we strongly recommend the mess keeps an eye out for George Bush if it keeps up with the massive oil supplies in its food.

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