The Taylor dining staff worked all summer on a response to the COVID-19 crisis. The goal: to honor the pandemic without dismantling the potential community around food at Taylor.
“We pride ourselves on intentional community and mealtimes are often a very intentional time,” said Stephen Olson, associate vice president of business development and service.
Changes have not been without adjustment or difficulties.
Many of these changes were put in place to maintain intentionality. In order to implement social distance, each dorm was assigned a dinner time.
The issue stemmed from students coming to the dining commons at similar times.
“We were seeing 400 students coming through the dining commons in a 20-minute time slot,” Olson said. When this happened, The DC was at maximum capacity, with 384 seats.
Dining times are currently as follows:
4:50 – 5:20 – Wengatz
5:10 – 5:40 – Sammy
5:30 – 6:00 – Olson
5:50 – 6:20 – English, Swallow
6:10 – 6:40 – Breuninger, Gerig, Off-Campus
6:30 – 7:00 – Bergwall, Campbell, Wolgemuth
7:00 – 7:30 – Athletes and others with extra-curricular conflicts
Nate Haugh, dining services director, said that students should anticipate a learning curve as more changes are made over the next couple weeks.
Another change students will adjust to is having one station to swipe their own meal cards. In this same breath, students must enter the DC using the right side stairs and exit on the left ones.
Upon finding a seat, students should look for a paper with green text atop tables. The text signifies the table has been cleaned and is ready for use. After eating, students should flip the paper to the side with red text reading “closed for cleaning.”
Social distancing is vital in stopping the spread of COVID-19; this truth is apparent to the dining staff. A third of the tables in the DC have been removed, with six seats existing at each table.
In regards to keeping only six chairs, Haugh emphasizes it will be the students responsibility.
Olson echoed a similar sentiment.
“We ask that students really do try to honor the social distance,” Olson said. “... so that we can retain some of the goodness of Taylor.”
To-Go options are another precaution Taylor is taking to avoid potential crowds, available for lunch and dinner. This option consists of hot food from the “Kitchen Table” line. Olson said that about 70 students are using this option per meal.
This option is found by entering the stairs by Bergwall and following the signage reading “To-Go.” It is in located in the Braden room and has quick exit access.
When picking up this meal, students should not swipe their meal card at the DC entrance, there is a spot to swipe at the to-go station. Students should not pick up a to-go meal and take it back inside the DC to eat. Haugh highlights the importance of freeing up space.
The flow of the DC isn’t the only change, food lines are changing too. The state of Indiana prohibits self-service food during this time. The Zone, an allergen-friendly area, was originally eliminated because it was self-service, but returned as those needing allergen-friendly options voiced their concerns.
This adaptation included moving The Zone to a different location, apart from the rest of the DC. The location change requires students to eat in a different location than their friends eating in the DC.
Sophomore Sarah Wordhouse, a student with dietary restrictions, has found this to be a much more difficult year for dining. Many others have the same difficulty.
“Food is communal and I don’t want to eat a meal by myself,” Wordhouse said.
Lack of options and loss of communal eating is a harsh reality to face. However, Haugh said that all universities in the country this year are going to be offering fewer options than in past years.
However, the student body wants to take this change on together, fueled by their love for Taylor.
“I love Taylor...we just need to hear each other,” Wordhouse said.
Still, the dining staff has one mission: to do everything they can to make dining a great experience for students, Haugh said.
In this spirit, Taylor is looking to offer creative new options.
For one, a Taylor taco food truck called the Curb has been added as a dining option.
The truck will be located behind the baseball outfield, on the side of the Student Center and will be open Monday through Friday for lunch. Students can use their Boren Center meal swipes for a meal and pick from taco options such as yucatah, korean bulgogi, dancing elephant, tex mex and pacific rim.
We are food people, after all, as Haugh said about Taylor.
Though Taylor’s administration remains dedicated to a delightful dining experience in this season, Olson said they are still asking for grace and patience.