Jaclyn Vander Waal– Staff Writer
Dordt Dining Services has significantly changed food options this semester due to COVID-19 with the goal of servicing students through the end of the semester.
The same meal is offered in all three serving lines of the Dordt University Commons. Staff serve all food to students themselves except for self-serve items in the breakfast nook, ice cream and beverages. The Defender Grille has fewer options for hot sandwiches and choices in the Grab-n-Go line. The Grille’s afternoon hot meal exchange has been eliminated.
“The COVID world just changes everything for us,” said David Menzel, overseer of Dordt Dining Services. “We spent all summer preparing—preparing how we service Dordt and the Dordt community so we can service until Dec. 11.”
Dordt Dining Services is run through Creative Dining Services, which is based in Zeeland, Michigan. Prior to the school year, Creative Dining Services put together a 36- page COVID-19 manual that included the do’s and don’ts of COVID-19 dining, Menzel said. The manual served as the basis of many changes for Dordt’s food options and guides daily operations.
“If my people get sick, what do I do?” Menzel said. “What if the student population gets sick and they have to go virtual, what do I do? So those are the questions I ask every day.”
However, many students do not appreciate the changes.
Cassie Voogt, a sophomore exercise science major, has 21 meals per week in her plan. She said she doesn’t receive the right proportions of food at the Commons since she can no longer serve herself. She is given too many eggs and not enough granola in her yogurt for breakfast. Voogt also misses the 1:30-3:30pm hot meal exchange at the Grille.
“At the Grille, I usually just grab a salad or something. I’m not about spending my Defender Dollars on a Defender, even though that’s what I ate all the time last year,” Voogt said. “Now I have to use my Defender Dollars for it? That’s not happening.”
Marissa Schiebout, a junior elementary education major, also finds that she spends more of her Defender Dollars at the Grille because of the lack of options.
“I was really hoping that with the hot food meal exchange gone, there would be more choices for us,” she said. “There are not as many options for chips and cookies, and sandwiches and salads are starting to be the same.”
Schiebout tries to use three of her five meals a week, but it is becoming harder for her to make her way to the Grille.
“I dread eating at the Grille some days because I am unsure of what to get,” she said.
Other students find it difficult to fulfill their dietary needs. Lauren Hoekstra, a junior secondary English education major, has few options that fit her vegetarian diet. In previous years, the vegetarian delight salad, veggie salads, and strawberry wraps and salads were served at the Grille. This year, only the vegetarian delight salad is offered.
“I think it was sort of disappointing, just because I was so blown away by the Commons last year and the Grille,” she said. “I had so many options of food that I could eat—which was really all that I wanted from Dordt Dining in general. But now this year, it seems like they have taken a step back.”
Yet, Hoekstra keeps a positive outlook about Dordt Dining Service because Menzel has been incredibly accommodating for her needs in prior years.
Every time I said something, he always took that feedback, and he went with it,” she said. “It was really cool to see how he actually listened to people who have different needs and food restrictions.”
Hoekstra said she understands that COVID-19 makes the dining services at Dordt look different this year. She just wishes the Grille would have more options for her to eat.
Voogt also realizes changes needed to be made in light of COVID-19. She admitted it was good to reduce the number of people touching the same utensils even though she does not prefer to be served. She simply wishes for more choices.
“Bring meal exchange in the afternoon back,” she said. “I don’t understand why they took this away. It has nothing to do with COVID in my opinion. Lineups are still bad for the Grille, so having hot meal exchange wouldn’t make it any worse.”
Schiebout said the issue could be resolved by rotating options in and out of the Grille better, with more variety in the chips and cookies for sides.
“The Dordt food service staff does a great job of meeting our needs, but I really hope to see chicken salad in the coolers in the next coming weeks,” she said.
Menzel’s focus is keeping both his staff and the Dordt community safe and healthy. He hopes to evolve the plan as the school year progresses, adding options such as rice bowls, wings, mac-and-cheese and burgers as they go.
Menzel found adgusting the Grille meal exchange times the most difficult change to make because they had to “give and take.” Hot sandwiches required too many staff members to come within six feet, so he lessened the demand for them by eliminating the 1:30-3:30pm hot meal exchange. The tradeoff was he kept the 8-10pm late night meal exchange.
“We wanted to keep some aspect of the Defender Grille true,” he said.
Menzel hopes students realize they are always welcome to talk to him.
“I tell the students that I’m in it to win it,” he said, “but the only way that we are going to win it is if everybody works together to beat this.”