The college dining hall – a place for food, friends and well-earned breaks. It’s known for a wide array of food bars, buffets, made-to-order stations and generous ice cream offerings. But for the Fall 2020 semester, the dining experience will undergo a reinvention to serve food safely amidst the novel coronavirus. What will the dining halls of the COVID-19 era look like?
Colleges across the country and major food service providers agree – the best way to protect both students and workers is to change dining halls from buffets to grab-and-go dining experiences. Major dining service provider Aramark, in their safety and service press release, announced they will shift to offering “easy-to-assemble, take-home meals.” Rather than condiment pumps, they will provide pre-packaged condiments and pre-portioned toppings. And to promote social distancing, they plan to “expand mobile ordering and contactless pick-up or desk delivery.” As for dining in the dining halls, that will also face major changes. Some colleges may open typical dining hall spaces in minimum capacity, while others might create new seating areas around campus.
Grab-and-go dining necessitates that food service providers and colleges collaborate on pairing down their dining hall menus. Boston College says it will focus on its most popular options like sub sandwiches, vegetarian protein bowls, pizza and mac and cheese, along with comfort food like chicken Parmesan, chicken tikka masala and stir-fry. Princeton University’s Emergency Summer Meal Plan has stripped breakfast to bagels and fresh fruit, and lunch and dinner to a meat or vegan entrée with accompanying sides and dessert. Students with dietary needs or special diets will need to work with the dining services in order to get the meals they need.
It’s the hope of administrators that these changes will not only provide students with the food they need but also ensure the safety of the food service workers, who are more vulnerable to coronavirus.
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