In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Luther College has elected to switch to disposable containers and cutlery in order to minimize viral exposure in the Caf. While this is good for the health of the students, faculty, and staff, it puts an unusually large workload onto the shoulders of those helping to feed our community.
Caf staff has always been used to delivering meals on plates, plates that are easy to wash quickly, and plates that are always the same size. Now they have to deal with three different sized containers, and the arduous task of stocking said containers in the back room and at all of the meal stations. Though students are supposed to specify which size container they would prefer, they often forget, prompting staff to ask them over and over, for hours at a time. The more students forget to specify container size, the more time it takes for them to get their food, and the long wait times result in longer lines. This ends up creating more work for the staff.
This by itself is disheartening for anyone working in the Caf, but dishing out food in containers is not the only facet of their new duties. Because students are no longer using plates, nothing can be placed in the dish carousel, and all uneaten food, utensils, and containers must be placed in the trash. Prior to the pandemic, there were only a handful of trash cans for staff to attend to, but now those working in the Caf must contend with an armada of large, and arguably formidable, trash cans. I have never once witnessed those cans unattended, which means that there is likely one less person staffing the counters or the back room and that all others working in the cafeteria must work harder than they normally would have to.
While cooking, dishing up meals, and taking out the trash, Caf staff members are also asked to clean the tables while they are on the clock. In the past, they had to clean tables only periodically, but they are now expected to sanitize surfaces after each use or risk a severe lack of seating. While I am decidedly in favor of cleanliness and preventing the spread of COVID-19, I can’t help but feel bad for these hard-working individuals who have so much more to do now. Furthermore, it’s important to remember that those working in the Caf are intentionally risking their own health to provide for us. Every time they come in for work, they are prepared to face the possibility that they could contract COVID-19, and every day they come in and work to the best of their abilities despite that.
This brings me to my next point. Despite all the things they do for us and the risks they take, I still hear many students complaining about their food quality and the new conditions in the cafeteria. I would like to remind the reader that the food we are supplied with comes from Sodexo, not a gourmet restaurant and that the people preparing our meals are doing their best to create dishes out of less than ideal stock. Moreover, they supply us with a variety of choices at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They have kept their desserts available for us, individually packaging each portion, and they work diligently to serve our needs.
Those working in the Caf are just as stressed as we are about COVID-19, just as delighted or concerned about the election results, and just as human as the rest of us. If anything, I think it would be really helpful for us to cut the Caf some slack, skip complaining about the meals they hand us, even if just for a day, and say “thank you” once in a while. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in ourselves in times like these, but it’s important to remember all the hard work that others do for us at Luther and appreciate the wonderful community we live in.
Opinions expressed in columns and letters are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Chips or organizations with which the author(s) are associated.