Multiple diners at the New College and Chestnut Residence cafeterias have lodged complaints over food quality and hygiene issues since the cafeterias’ transition to a pay-by-weight system. After a previous implementation of the pay-by-weight system was removed in fall 2021 following a student outcry against it, Food Services reimplemented a similar system with the start of the fall 2023 semester. 

In interviews with The Varsity, seven Chestnut Residence students noted concerns about food hygiene despite the steeper prices they paid in comparison to food options off campus. 

Many of the students mentioned undercooked potatoes and meat as primary concerns. Michael Lander, a first-year computer engineering student at Chestnut Residence, said that he had contracted symptoms of food poisoning for several days within a week of moving into residence and believed it was associated with food he’d eaten from the dining hall. 

Anne Macdonald, assistant vice-president of spaces and experiences, wrote in an email to The Varsity that claims about food poisoning “should only be made with diagnosis and/or evidence.” She wrote that U of T takes any supported claims about food poisoning seriously and investigates such claims, sometimes involving Toronto Public Health. She also confirmed that managers and staff at Chestnut and New College had not received any reports of food-borne illness at the time of comment.

Macdonald wrote that students with concerns about food safety or hygiene should report those concerns through Food Services’ website, although The Varsity could not find any information on the website specific to reporting food poisoning, as of January 14, 2024. The City of Toronto welcomes individuals to report food-borne illness online or through its designated phone line at (416) 392-7411.

Interviewees also noted seeing pests in residence dining halls. Tissa Razavi, a first-year architecture student, claimed that her friend had seen a rat in the Chestnut Residence dining hall. Gabriella Wang, a third-year student, added that they often saw flies at the salad and condiment stations at New College.

John Yfantis, a first-year engineering science student, shared with The Varsity a photo of a live caterpillar found in a salad one of his friends obtained from the Chestnut Residence dining hall in September. Yfantis informed The Varsity that, after consulting with his residence don and bringing the matter up to Food Services, he received an apology from the organization.

In her statement, Macdonald said that staff “routinely monitor[s]” both where food is prepared and non-food spaces for pests.

Toronto Public Health has inspected both New College and Chestnut dining halls — most recently in November 2023 — and consistently issued them passes. In May 2023, however, Toronto Public Health issued a pass to New College dining hall with a minor infraction: failure to protect against pests. 

In the most recent November inspection, the inspector did not find any infractions. Chestnut Dining Hall did not receive any infractions in 2023.