Dining Changes Leave Students Unsatisfied

Dining Changes Leave Students Unsatisfied

by Nevaeh Rush, Vice President

    The changes in the dining hall on campus due to COVID-19 have left the majority of students unsatisfied with their meals and wanting more for the price of their meal plans. 

    With new regulations on campus, the cuisine at UMF has vastly changed. South Dining Hall has been changed to a buffet style where students take their food and leave. “You walk in and tap your dining card,” said Sophomore Julia Partridge, “It only goes one way, and you have to grab food items through the line.” 

    There are 50 people allowed to be in the South Dining Hall at one time, leaving students feeling rushed as they go through the line. Sophomore, Emily Thompson said, “If you forgot to grab something and you passed it, forget about it.”

Signage posted outside the new entrance to South Dining Hall

New signage posted outside the new entrance of the dining hall, changed due to COVID-19.
Photo courtesy of Sam Shirley.

    Having unlimited swipes comes in handy for those students who feel that the lack of options is a greater problem this semester than it has been previously. “I find it harder to eat healthy,” said Partridge. “There are less healthy options and the ones they do have often do not taste good,”. 

    Senior, Thomas Watson struggles in particular with the options in the dining hall this semester. Watson struggles with Celiac disease, a hypersensitivity to gluten. This limits many of the options for him to eat in the dining hall. “I am basically limited to the gluten free sandwiches or the simple servings,” Watson said. “And the simple servings happen to be closed on the weekends.” All of the prepackaged food is already out for the day, therefore often the gluten free sandwich options he is limited to are gone by the end of the day. 

    “I do believe that I have the option to call ahead an hour or more and ask them to prepare me something gluten free.” He said. Although that is a better alternative some days, it is not always convenient in the uncertainty of a college student’s busy schedule. 

    Watson as well as Thompson, both having the highest meal plan (meal plan A), voiced their concerns about spending their own money on top of the meal plan cost due to being simply unsatisfied with the food. “I am a picky eater,” Thompson said. “There often are not many options I will eat.” 

    “I wouldn’t call it a need to technically, there are the things in the dining hall that are needed for survival,” Watson said. “But I am finding myself spending more on outside food than I normally had.” 

    Yet there are some benefits with the new system, “I have been sick less from cross contamination of gluten products,” Watson said, “because everything is now packaged separately.” Many students are also enjoying the new eating areas on campus, such as the Mantor Green. “It is nice to sit outside and eat when it is nice out,” Watson said. 

    “It is a necessary evil,” he said. “The dining hall is doing what they have to to be open.” 

Adapting to a New Normal

Adapting to a New Normal

by Emily Cheney, Contributing Writer

    As campus life adjusts to the new policies, local businesses and restaurants downtown are also struggling to handle the new modifications.

    When COVID-19 first hit, businesses began to shut down in order to stay safe. The Homestead, a local business located in downtown Farmington, has been one of many local businesses that has adapted to the pandemic lifestyle.

The Homestead in downtown Farmington

The Homestead in downtown Farmington.
Photo courtesy of Sam Shirley.

     Kyra Zabel, a fourth-year student at UMF, has been working at The Homestead for two years and describes her struggles. “We closed for a couple months so I was technically out of a job, but when we got back, I was working more than before we closed,” Zabel said. “I had more time and a lot of the staff left because they lived on campus and went home. I was going in at 11:30 and working until close frequently, which is a lot of being consistently on your feet.”

    Between trying to keep everything clean and the customers happy, dealing with backlash is inevitable. “Most of our customers are really respectful, but especially during lunch, there are always people who feel the need to complain and make comments about having to wear a mask,” Zabel said. 

    Working in any sort of local business has become significantly stressful during these past months. For restaurants, employees are much more attentive, working with food and constantly cleaning tables, one after the other, “To maximize time before, we used to be able to have all of our tables close to each other, but now we have to sanitize and wash our hands in between people, and it’s so much more time-consuming.” Zabel said. 

    Looking from the customer’s perspective, Farmington resident Emma Petersson shared her recent experience with dining at the Homestead. “Besides the extra sanitation precautions, I cannot say that I noticed a difference in how things are run,” Petersson said. “I would definitely say they are more on top of things as the dining area is more spread out and staff is enforcing and maintaining strict sanitation practices.”

    The tables are already spread out making social distancing easy to maintain for those who are dining. “The staff has been very kind and considerate, but firm with boundaries,” Petersson said. 

    Though Zabel said that she has dealt with some very rude customers who complain about wearing masks, Petersson said that from a customer’s point of view, she did not see anyone being insolent about masks while she was there. “I didn’t interact with other customers, but they were all wearing masks when walking to or from their table which I appreciated,” said Petersson.