Student Life

What Does College Campus Dining Look like with Coronavirus?

Colleges lay plans for dining and feeding students on campus.

Kathryn Knight Randolph

July 29, 2020

What Does College Campus Dining Look like with Coronavirus?
With CDC recommendations, colleges lay their individual "plans" for campus dining.
With the collegiate school year quickly approaching, colleges across the country are making “final” plans in their response to Coronavirus. Though some schools called off in-person classes and residential housing completely earlier this summer, others adopted a wait-and-see approach. Unfortunately for those colleges that opted for the latter response, the need to act has come at a time when Coronavirus cases are skyrocketing nearly everywhere in the U.S. Now, colleges that have opted to welcome students back to campus are working hard to lay plans, only to change them in the weeks and days leading up to move-in day. Looking for more COVID-19 student-impact information? Find it here.
And what should students expect? Well, students should know that their college campus will look and feel drastically different. The impacts of the Coronavirus will touch virtually every aspect of their life – from how classes meet to how many students live in a dorm room to what students can eat. Though it will be unusual, it is nothing that students, administrators, and college campuses as a community cannot navigate together. It is simply a matter of being adaptable and willing to work together toward the best, healthiest outcome for all individuals living, working, and learning together. With that, let’s take a look at the dining hall situation across college campuses for the 2020- 2021 school year, AKA the Coronavirus College Year.

CDC Recommendations for College Dining Halls

Colleges and universities that are reopening to students must do what works best for their campus, how many students they serve, etc. However, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) did post some suggestions for how college dining halls could safely feed students. They include: • Grab-and-go food is preferable. • If food must be served in a dining hall, serve individual plates meals versus buffet style.
• Use disposable food service items, such as plates, utensils, etc. • If a large campus event is held, serve individual boxed or bagged meals to avoid sharing the same utensils. Again, these are merely recommendations, and the CDC has stated that it is up to each school individually on how they prepare and execute their COVID dining hall plans.

Campuses Share Their Dining Hall Plans

Some colleges have begun revealing more detailed plans of what dining on campus will look like; however, it should be noted that circumstances are changing every day. For instance, George Washington University, Miami University in Ohio, and West Virginia University just announced on July 27 that nearly all classes will be online now, pivoting from their original decisions, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. All of this to say, prepare to see your college change how they do things as the semester begins and continues. Here are how a few schools are beginning the school year as it relates to dining on campus: • At Princeton University, all undergraduate and graduate dining halls will be open. There will be no self-serve options. Meal delivery will be available to those students who must self-isolate or quarantine while they are living on campus. • Cornell University will offer take-out options as well as in-person dining. For in-person dining, students will have to make reservations and practice social distancing. • At Ball State University, students will have to practice social distancing and limit capacity while using the dining halls. Meals will only be available in takeout containers with individually wrapped utensils. Students are not allowed to use reusable mugs or tumblers for drinks. Food hours will be extended so that everyone on campus has time to eat. • University of Illinois will offer the same menu at all dining locations to limit capacity as well as practice social distancing measures and extended dining hours. • University of California – San Diego will offer students mobile ordering to cut down on wait times and crowds at dining halls. Students will also have to practice social distancing. UCSD is also requiring all students to take part in free COVID testing once they arrive on campus as well as daily symptom screening through the remainder of the semester. A comprehensive plan is in place for all international students who will be required to self-isolate for 14 days after their arrival. Many students don’t have a first-hand look at what dining will look like, but one student at the University of Notre Dame got a sneak peek on a walk around her campus this week. She then posted a comical – yet creepy – look on TikTok at the lengths the University is going to in order to keep students socially distanced during dining hours:

can’t wait to be HERE™ ##notredame ##fyp ##foryou

♬ Ameno hatsune miku - clod_boie
The TikTok user @m_ryk_te acknowledged that she took the video mid-setup; however, the explanation was a little too late. Since she posted it, the video has received over 1 million views. Chances are, most college campuses across the country are going to looking eerily similar. Are you planning to attend college on-campus this school year? What will your dining halls and options look like? We would love to hear about how colleges are tackling the day-to-day of having students on campus and keeping them as safe as possible.

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