Dining Services Shift Protocol Amid Omicron and Staff Shortages

The Caf now has plexiglass on tables so that students can eat in-person.

The Van Dyke Dining Hall, better known as the Caf, closed to in-person dining on Jan. 13 and allowed only to-go options amid the surge of the Omicron variant. Then, on Jan. 21, members of the Emory & Henry community were allowed to eat in the Caf once again.
This quick turnaround in regulations was a response to labor shortages and other challenges that dining services at E&H continue to face.
“We will be to-go only through the end of January, and will reevaluate at that time,” Executive Director of Strategic Initiatives Ryan Bower said.
Various repercussions arose in response to this first in-person dining ban, notably the increase of waste produced by the college. Though the food containers are biodegradable, the cups, utensils, and packaging are made of plastic materials.
Students also began eating in large groups in other spaces on campus outside of the Caf, counteracting the goals of closing the dining area to begin with.
“While the reduction of food waste is important,” Dean of Students Tracey Wright said, “the health and safety of our campus community members is our top priority.”
A team of E&H faculty that includes Wright, Bowyer, and President John Wells consistently reevaluated a return to in-person meals. The team released a statement, saying, “We are observing how this process is working and the impact on our students both physically and mentally. The goal is to make a safe return to the new normal dining arrangements as quickly as possible.”
This observation culminated in the decision to reopen the Caf to in-person dining on Jan. 21, with the addition of a new safety measure. Tables are now equipped with plexiglass partitions to allow students to eat unmasked and in-person.
Though reopening the Caf solves issues surrounding waste production and safe eating spaces, students are still facing more complications of to-go dining and staff shortages on campus.
Students with dietary restrictions have experienced increased difficulties in fulfilling nutritional needs. Also, many students have been repeatedly denied secondary containers with the takeaway option despite being allowed multiple plates inside the Caf.
Furthermore, Sodexo released an email stating the effects of nationwide labor and supply chain shortages to on-campus dining. Students can expect to see modified service hours, retail pricing increases in the coming weeks, reduced staff levels, and numerous outages of certain food and beverage items.
Modified hours are already in effect at the Hut, the only dining option on campus aside from the Caf, which is now closed on Fridays and Saturdays.
With mounting concerns for E&H Dining Services, the community awaits further updates.