On Saturday (April 18th), I was part of a group of staff members from the Libraries and Communications who volunteered to deliver meals to the students still living in the residence halls on campus. Meal preparation and delivery is not the first thing people think of to document for posterity, but it’s exactly the sort of detail that people find themselves curious about after the fact.
The Dining Hall may be closed, but Dining Services on campus are still hard at work. At the moment, 120 students remain on campus living in the residence halls, so the college has had to creatively overcome the obstacles faced by the requirements of social distancing in order to make sure that students are being fed in a timely – and safe – manner.
Meals are prepared and delivered to students each day. Not all students necessarily choose to receive meals from Dining. Meals are delivered twice a day at lunch and dinner time. Snack items are provided with lunch and breakfast items are provided with dinner for the next morning.
During the week, Facilities Management handles meal delivery, but various offices and departments have been asked to take on weekend shifts. The lunch delivery crew met at 11:15 a.m. and consisted of Kim Gilbert, Cecilia Knight, Jane Mertens, Karla Harter, Mattia and Justin Wells, and Ben Binversie. The dinner delivery crew met at 4:45 p.m. and consisted of Liz Rodrigues, Jean Reavis, Allison Haack, Kim Gilbert, Jim Powers, and Dave Dinius.
Volunteers were directed to gather at the loading dock at the side of the Rosenfield Center where we were met by a staff member from Dining Services who made sure that everyone used a wet wipe on their hands before putting on plastic gloves. Masks were available if needed but everyone in my afternoon group had worn their own, many of them homemade cloth masks.
The hot portion of the meals were individually stored in clear plastic to-go containers and placed on large trays in insulated wheeled-containers. A list taped to the wheeled-container listed the number of meals to be delivered to each residence hall. Meals were clearly marked if they were Vegan or Halal. The cold or room-temperature portions of the meals and snacks were placed in a 9×13 aluminum pan. Cartons of milk and bottled water were included with the cold items.
In my dinner group, Jim and Dave were sent with a hot and cold container to an East campus residence hall, while the four library staff members (Liz, Kim, Jean, and Allison) were sent to the South Campus dormitories. The wheeled containers holding the meals to be delivered to South Campus were brought over by a truck from dining services. The four library staff members were split into two groups and each group had a hot and cold wheeled-container.
A long, rectangular folding table was set up outside the loggia-side door to each dormitory, and held a container of pre-packaged utensils. Directions for picking up meals were taped to the table, reminding students to touch only what they ordered. Volunteers were given a menu to tape in place at each table. Each tray in the wheeled insulated-container contained the number of meals for each residence hall (something I did not realize at first).
This process was then repeated at the North Campus residence halls. While we waited for the truck with the wheeled containers we stood around at a safe distance from one another and chatted, mostly about the various takeout options in town. Seeing the food the students were getting had made us hungry! It was also nice to talk with co-workers that I haven’t seen in several weeks except through online meetings, which just isn’t the same.
While we were setting out the meals and snacks, we could see students waiting on the other side of the glass doors, ready to scurry out and grab dinner once we were gone. We waved to them and said hello from a distance once we had moved further down the loggia. I can only imagine that the students who remain on campus are lonely, with most of their friends gone and classes online, but at least they’re being well fed. It didn’t take much effort on my part (Dining Services deserves nearly all the credit), but I’m glad that I was able to help the campus community in this small way.