By Erica Quinones
As Washington College closed its campus on March 11 in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, dorms and academic buildings became devoid of students, but not all residents could return home. For those students, one amenity of the College had to evolve to meet their needs — Dining Services.
With decreased students came a downsizing in services. The dining hall in upstairs Hodson Hall Commons is closed and staff are not using its main kitchen. Rather, Dining Services began functioning solely from Java George and Martha’s Kitchen on weekdays from 10 a.m. till 5:30 p.m. beginning March 18.
The hours originally announced in Director of Dining Services Prince Johnson’s March 17 email ran from 9 a.m. till 6 p.m., but Johnson said that with the new online course schedule, the remaining students typically do not emerge for food till later in the day.
Both sites are serving set menus with additional daily specials advertised through their social media and emails.
Johnson said that their main goal with the specials is to assure students know that dining is available on campus.
They are creating and cooking the specials using both remaining product from earlier orders, as well as food brought in through current orders and trips to local stores for perishables.
Freshman Alexander Raimond said that they appreciate the fresh food and that Dining Services are “trying to get together specials for us so it is not just the same food every day.”
All payment methods are accepted on-site, including meal swipes, Dining Dollars, cash, and credit.
While the pay methods and food options expanded, the last day for full time employees was March 17; they were furloughed afterwards, according to Johnson.
Johnson and Executive Chef David McKenty run the retail spaces, according to Johnson.
Raimond said they were sad to see most of the staff leave after spring break, but “it was really nice having them here and they were all really kind.”
The College Coronavirus Response Team announced in a March 19 email that all staff who were not critical to on-campus operations would begin working from home on March 23.
Dining Services continues to operate not only as a stable source of food for students but as a source of security.
“It really takes my mind off food being scarce or money being tight,” sophomore Kennett Vail-Rojas said. “Even though I have been able to keep my job, not having to worry about food and put money towards other necessities is a reprieve.”
Johnson said that staff completed a deep cleaning of dining amenities over spring break, pest control continues services, and they upkeep standard sanitary practices in daily cleanings.
Maintaining Dining Services on campus means that students can safely carryout meals to eat in their residential areas instead of mingling in Hodson Hall Commons or going into Chestertown and risk infecting others through community spread.
Dining Services are not open on weekends; however, Johnson said they receive bulk orders on Fridays to distribute to students. This way, students on-campus remain food secure and able to social distance despite retailers being closed.
“More than anything else, it is great to know [students] can go somewhere safe without having to go off-campus,” Johnson said.