This is What Your College Students’ Dining Experience Will Look Like

Everything is changing. This fall will bring us college campus scenarios that we could not have envisioned a mere 6 months ago. In attempting to get kids back to campus one of the biggest hurdles schools have to overcome is communal dining. We asked parents in the Grown and Flown Facebook group what they were hearing from their schools regarding meals at school.

College dining will be different this year. (@jstark via Twenty20)

10 things colleges are planning for their dining hall and food service

Grab-and-Go – universities are planning to get rid of self-serve and replace it with take-out. You will go to the cafeteria and pick up a meal to go. Many schools will have apps from which you can order your food for pick-up.

Limited Seating Indoors – if indoor dining is allowed, cafeterias will be configured to allow students to eat without being closer than 6 feet to others. Many colleges will run their dining halls at some percentage of their former capacity to ensure that distance can be preserved. Notre Dame will limit indoor seating to a certain number per table.

Food trucks and Outdoor Barbecues – schools are looking for alternatives to the traditional cafeteria for feeding thousands of students in a communal place. Some schools have announced that there will be outdoor food trucks that will accept university meal tickets for payment. And that some cooking will be done outdoors barbecue style.

Outdoor Seating – Smith College told their students that they will be putting up outdoor seating and tents as alternate locations for dining. 

Only the Dining Plan  – Xavier University has said that only those with dining plans can use the dining hall. Similarly Georgetown is only allowing those living on campus to use the dining hall (which is grab & go). If you live off campus, you need to find another way to eat. 

Reservations – Tufts and Tulane, among many other schools, will require that students make reservations for their meals. At Tufts which has adopted a cohort system, you will only be allowed to eat with students in your cohort (a group of kids you live with who will essentially be your travel companions through the semester).

Delivery – some schools will be delivering food from their own cafeteiras. And some will employ robot delivery on campus.

Shortening Dining Hours – at William Jewell College (Fresh Ideas Food Management.) The dining hall will only be open for two hours per meal which will be split into 30 minute shifts, periods A-D. Students will be assigned to one period during which they can eat. Montana State is also limiting students to 30 minutes of mealtime once seated. 

More Cleaning and Barriers – many schools note that they will be doing more cleaning in between eating shifts and hand sanitizer will be widely available. In addition, plexiglass will separate the students from cashiers.

Assigned Seating Times – Drake University will offer assigned dining times to students based upon class schedule.

Self-service looks like it will fall victim to the virus, with every school we heard about jettisoning any kind of buffet or self-service. Gone are the days of sitting in the dining hall for hours just to chat. Eating will become a much more intentional activity and will require planning and patience.

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Colleges are Handing Our Health Kits to Students Forget about water bottles or t-shirts, health kits will be handed out to many students this fall

About Helene Wingens

Helene Wingens has always been passionate about painting pictures with words. She graduated from Brandeis University with a degree in psychology and three years later from Boston University School of Law with a Juris Doctor. In a year long clerkship for an appellate judge Helene honed her writing skills by drafting weekly appellate memoranda. She practiced law until she practically perfected it and after taking a brief twenty year hiatus to raise her three children she began writing a personal blog Her essays have been published in: Scary Mommy, Kveller, The Forward, and Grown and Flown where she is Managing Editor. You can visit Helene's website here

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