Campus Dining Services See Major Changes due to COVID-19

Students-waiting-for-dining-hall-entry
Photo courtesy of Emma Ryan.

As students return to the SUNY New Paltz campus for the fall semester, many are finding that dining services look very different than they normally would.

In response to the school’s reopening, Sodexo — the college’s food service provider — had to form a plan to fall in line with the guidelines set by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. After getting approval for their dining services plan from the governor, Kevin Dicey, the general manager of dining services at SUNY New Paltz, then checked the plan over with the local health department to ensure its safety.

All Sodexo staff members and students are required to wear masks, and there are markers on the floors so students know where to stand in order to adhere to social distancing guidelines. There are also designated entry and exit doors to help with the flow of people. 

Some dining options have been removed from the Student Union Building (SUB) this semester. Greenlight — a salad and soup eatery — and Diegos, a taco and burrito bowl venue, are both gone. Element 93 and Truth Cafe are also closed this semester, and Chick n’ Bap has relocated from The Roost to the SUB.

With the exception of staying in one’s residence, “This is the safest place you could possibly eat,” Dicey said. “[We’re doing] everything we possibly can.” 

Dicey also added that the health department came to campus recently and gave Peregrine Dining Hall a good score. Third-year residential student Peter Ingenito agrees with Dicey’s assessment. 

“Honestly out of everybody on campus, I think they’re doing the best they can,” Ingenito said, adding that he can’t really blame Dining Services for minor inconveniences since “they had to scramble to fill the school’s needs.” 

“It’s fair, except for the timing,” fourth-year residential student Samuel Lartigue said.  Lartigue — along with many other students, including Ingenito — have complained about the lack of dining options open late. 

Sunday through Monday, the usual late night options like Nester’s or Pomodoro’s in the SUB, now close at 8 p.m., though the GrubHub app stops taking orders around 7:45 p.m. The only option open after 8 p.m. Sunday through Monday is The Roost, which is open until 9 p.m. 

If students get hungry after 9 p.m., their on-campus options are severely limited. While there is a 24-hour vending machine on campus, there have been many nights in past semesters where it has temporarily broken down or stopped working altogether.

Another complaint students have is the portions they receive, and lack of customization options available. 

Lartigue mentioned how the portions he has been getting seem different than those he received last year, specifically noting less meat in his Chick n’ Bap bowls and the inability to get seconds at Peregrine Dining Hall. In previous semesters, students could go back for as much food as they liked at Peregrine; but now that it is grab-and-go only, this option is no longer available. 

Dicey noted that in past semesters, it was all about customer service. “What we did in the past, we had to forget,” Dicey said. He added that customer service is especially challenging since the staff is interacting with customers being plexiglass and masks. 

To try and bring back some of the atmosphere of previous semesters, Dining Services has started implementing “Perry’s Favorites” on Thursdays, starting Sept. 3, which featured chicken nuggets — a classic favorite. 

Students have also mentioned lines forming while waiting for food. The most popular time to get dinner is around 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., which is when the lines and food wait times tend to get long. Dicey commented that it’s especially hard when students order their food only after arriving at the SUB, rather than before they leave their rooms, which increases the amount of students waiting and causes lines to grow unnecessarily long. 

According to Ingenito, the lines at Peregrine Dining Hall can also grow rapidly, extending as far as the start of the bridge that connects Peregrine quad with the area by Pond Road Parking Lot. Ingenito noted that while not everyone in line was social distancing, everyone was wearing masks. 

Overall, Dicey said he is “proud of [his] teams and [his] staff for adapting to the stringent protocols that are in place.” He emphasized the importance of students trying to keep each other safe and following the guidelines and rules that are set in place. 

“I’ve learned to just trust the process of masks and social distancing when possible,” said fourth-year residential student Grace Deas. “We lower our chances when we follow the rules. I think some people forget that part.”