By Raymond Duffy
A prominent area of change on Saint Vincent’s campus due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has been Dining Services. SVC Dining Services has reduced seating capacity in the Community Center cafeteria by 50%, eliminated all self-serve options, and installed plastic shields, among other measures—all in order to protect both students and staff.
While Dining Services had made an effort last year to reduce general food waste in the cafeteria, health and safety measures now take top priority, resulting in a proliferation of plastic utensils and plastic foam takeout boxes throughout campus.
Jamie Ballew, senior general manager of Saint Vincent Dining Services, stated that the switch to plastic tableware and foam containers, “along with most everything we do, is being driven by our efforts to provide a safe environment, amid COVID concerns, for the community. We initially started by placing the silverware inside paper sleeves [to reduce waste]. We found, however, [that] it was not an efficient process.”
For many students, the GET app for ordering food from a phone was a welcome development. However, its initial roll-out at the Shack, the setting where it received the most use, was buggy.
Sophomore business major Andy Kunz described the app as “incredibly unreliable.”
Issues with the app meant that mobile ordering at the Shack was disabled for around a week.
“After much time and effort, we were able to determine that there was a hardware failure at the Shack,” Ballew said, adding that “We do have the replacement hardware and the app at the Shack is up and running.”
The Community Center can be very full at its peak hours, which has caused some students to have concerns about finding a socially distanced place to sit during these times. In addition to the pre-existing overflow dining rooms across the hall from the main seating area,
Ballew mentioned the introduction of tents to the campus as a possible seating option for cafeteria-goers.
According to Ballew, the tents “will allow for outdoor dining areas.” But Ballew also mentioned that “the current capacity, other than a few peak times of the day or week, has been sufficient in the Community Center. Especially as students continue to realize, with continuous service, [that] they can come to the Community Center during off-peak times. A huge plus is the addition of the GET app for ‘to-go’ meals, allowing students to return to their dorms or other locations on campus to eat.”
Another crucial portion of the measures which Dining Services has implemented for the health and safety of both students and staff are the strict limits on moving chairs within the Community Center to ensure social distancing, along with a recommended 30-minute limit on dining to allow for tables to be sanitized after. Some anonymous students expressed concerns that some of these measures are ignored by students in the cafeteria and there is a lack of any enforcement of said guidelines.
Ballew commented that everyone in Dining Services has been overseeing these activities and taking appropriate measures.
“The dining team reminds students daily of the guidelines we have put in place, based on the recommendations of the Forward Together Committee, the CDC and PADH,” Ballew stated. “However, along with that, peer-to-peer communication is a great opportunity to reinforce the importance of following the guidelines and that we are in this together.”