University Dining Center’s COVID-19 response

Medina Ouattara ® Staff Writer |
Photo by Muhammad Ibrahim ® Staff Photographer |

Minnesota State University, Mankato made a lot of changes during this COVID-19 period, and the University Dining Center is no exception.

All students who come to dine in the university dining center will receive a “reserved” sign for their seat. The amount of “reserved” signs are determined by occupancy rules. As the student exits the dining center, they return the sign. Cleaning crews then sanitize and disinfect the sign so it can be reused.

Employees follow strict protocols about personal hygiene and food safety such as wearing gloves, frequent hand washing and frequent cleaning and sanitizing of touched objects and surfaces. In addition to that, they have to respect a travel ban for all non-essential business travel.

“The dining hall always makes sure that employees are wearing face masks and gloves,” Samira Diby, a junior at MNSU, observed.

“I think the staff are doing good, but they should also check people’s temperature at the entrance,” MNSU freshman Mariam Yusuf added.

Adjusting the menu options in order to keep up with satisfaction was also a big focus for the hall. Giving the students a variety of wholesome and fresh foods are paramount for them. With the supply chain being severely impacted by COVID, the dining hall works closely with vendors to ensure they can get items that are on its menu. This is a way to minimize the number of last-minute menu substitutions, and it continues to be an ongoing effort and will be for some time. 

One thing hasn’t been affected by the pandemic: students’ eating habits.

“Before COVID, I always had ice cream for dessert,” MNSU senior Gnele Kone said. “I still do.” 

Providing an exciting experience has also been something the hall put a lot of energy into. Hosting events and recognizing national food days gives students a sense of normalcy. To bring back some old traditions, smoothie bikes are coming back next week. These bikes allow students to choose a flavor smoothie, and in order to make the drink, they must pedal on a bike for a minute or two.

The dining hall has been very nimble in switching how they operate when state and local codes change. 

“Keeping the students and our staff safe is extremely important to us,” said Jamie Waterbury, University Dining Services General Manager. “Following those guidelines quickly is a must.”

Header photo: Students can be seen entering the University Dining Center, which is adhering to COVID-19 guidelines Sept. 21, 2020 in Mankato, Minn. (Muhammad Ibrahim/MSU Reporter)

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