Tufts Dining announced new guidelines for dining halls and retail food services for the spring semester in response to the rise in COVID-19 cases on and off campus. Most notably, all dining venues have moved to offering grab-and-go only, which is expected to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 on campus.
“For the start of the spring semester, all food from the dining centers will be grab-and-go," Patti Klos, director of dining and business services, wrote in an email to the Daily. "As we did at the end of the fall semester, students will be provided with take-out containers to place their food in."
University Infection Control Health Director Dr. Michael Jordan told the Daily in an email that while students still have the option to eat in the dining halls, they are encouraged to take their food back to their dorm or another location.
“With grab and go, people will also be strongly encouraged to leave the dining hall and find other locations to eat (e.g. their bedrooms, empty classrooms, study spaces, etc.)," Jordan wrote. "This will de-densify dining halls for those who remain."
Tufts Dining replaced all disposable takeout containers with more environmentally consciousreusable take-out containers last November. With the return to grab-and-go only dining, they have returned to single-use plastic containers until further notice, according to Klos.
Klos explained that students who choose to eat in the dining halls should find room to spread out and must continue to wear masks except when eating.
Inside the dining halls, steps are being taken to ensure the safety of both Tufts Dining staff and students. According to Klos, changes made earlier in the pandemic, such as enhanced cleaning, sanitation protocols and air purification, are ongoing.
"We provide our staff with fresh masks throughout the day, appropriate cleaning supplies and they continue to participate in the surveillance testing program on a regular basis,” Klos said.
Klos commended Tufts Dining staff members for their hard work amid the turbulence of the pandemic and referenced the added burden placed on them when students fail to comply with COVID-19 guidelines.
“We are grateful for the dedication and vigilance of our dining staff who balance great service with occasionally needing to remind students to follow the policies and guidelines to help keep everyone safe," Klos wrote. "We appreciate when students comply without arguing or making it more difficult for the employees to do their jobs."
The dining hall menus will not change due to the new grab-and-go system, nor will there be any changes at the retail locations on campus, such as Hodgdon Food-on-the-Run and Kindlevan Café. Klos explained that Tufts Dining has made adjustments to the regular menu based on feedback from the fall, and that special dinners and pop-ups will continue this semester.
Lydia Savitt, a student worker at Hodgdon, told the Daily that moving from only accepting online orders to fielding both online and in-person orders is exciting, but at times overwhelming.
"It has been a little bit stressful this year with having both online and in person [orders],” Savitt, a sophomore, said. "But we're getting used to it and it's fun actually seeing people."
Savitt explained that the pandemic has made the first few weeks of the semester a hectic time for workers at Hodgdon.
“Whenever there's been high cases on campus, we've been really understaffed because there'll be so many people in the mods,” Savitt said. “Takeout and the ordering setup for people who are getting food will probably be the same, but it might be busier at first because we'll be short-staffed.”
Savitt added that traffic at Hodgdon will likely slow down as the semester gets underway.
At Hodgdon and all of the dining locations around campus, student workers and staff take necessary precautions to help protect the Tufts community, such as wearing masks and gloves and frequently sanitizing. Savitt said that she has always felt safe working there, despite fluctuating COVID-19 numbers.
According to Klos, the new Tufts Dining COVID-19 guidelines for the spring semester will remain in place until the Tufts medical team and health officials advise otherwise.
“Protecting the health of our community and neighbors has been our top and unchanging priority since the onset of the pandemic,” Jordan wrote. “Our COVID protocols and testing methods are based on a data-driven and flexible model that enables us to adjust according to the data and trends that we and public health officials are seeing.”