Campus dining halls make a long-awaited return to in-person operations

For the first two virtual weeks of the spring semester, dining halls were limited to take-out meals, a drastic change from the in-person dining options present in the fall. Students couldn’t admire the new interiors of the Morrison Dining Hall or catch up with friends over a hot meal on West. However, in-person dining has resumed and students are eagerly awaiting a return to normal.

On February 7, Cornell dines reinstated in-person catering at full capacity for all dining rooms and cafes. Going forward, take-out remains an option, but food is mostly self-service. Some restaurants have reserved spaces for social distancing seating.

During the shifts leading up to the return of in-person dining, Brandon Wolf ’23, a student supervisor at Becker Dining Hall, heard students’ excitement and relief about the reopening.

“When everyone came in, they were like, ‘Oh my god, they’re getting ready for an in-person dinner – thank goodness! “”, Did he declare.

Wolf also noted that the move to in-person seating hasn’t affected his shifts much.

“The only difference is that it takes a little longer to close at night because we have to wash all the dishes and go and clean the tables,” he said.

Some students, like Jack Shimkin ’23, have been waiting a long time to be able to sit down with their friends during meals.

Even with the convenience and ease of takeout, Shimkin said it lacks the social engagement of in-person dining.

“Now I see friends and groups starting to come together, and that’s encouraging,” he said.

In-person dining also reduces wastage of food and disposable containers and utensils.

“I can get seconds for things a lot easier rather than trying to guess all the amounts of food I want,” Claire Ceske ’23 said.

Ceske also noted that canteens provide compost bins, while it’s difficult to compost leftovers at home to take away.

While many students have expressed excitement about the University’s dining halls returning to normal, others have expressed health and convenience concerns.

Beth Straight ’22 said she prefers takeout because she can do her homework while she eats and can avoid the social and pandemic-related pressures that come with eating in a crowded area.

With an in-person meal, Straight expressed wishes for stronger social distancing measures.

“When you go to the dining hall, people are always side by side with random strangers, so I think if they were a little more spread out and a little more careful about disinfecting areas, it would be better “, she said. .

She said students should do more to make sure their peers are comfortable, explaining that she has seen some students encroaching on others’ space.

Reusable containers remain available for students who wish to continue eating takeout. Straight noted that while canteens do a good job of keeping reusable containers stocked, they often lack containers for items like soups or drinks. According to Wolf, canteens have experienced container shortages due to supply chain issues.

As a vegetarian, shortages cause problems for Straight when meatless options are limited to soups and sides assuming soups are available to all. Straight explained that when the containers aren’t available and she does takeout, she can’t access the food she can eat.

“I can’t take the stew, so I can only take things like cauliflower and broccoli, which are not a meal,” she said.

Despite her personal preferences, she supports reopening.

“I don’t think reopening was the worst idea,” Straight said. “I think we need a balance between normality and caution.”

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