“We realize things are going to be different. But we are looking to be innovative and, when students come back, to create an atmosphere that is safe and creates a sense of normalcy.”
On a typical day the Bridgewater State University dining halls are bustling with chefs, cooks, servers and dishwashers all working behind the scenes to deliver nutritious food to members of the campus community.
However, in March when all classes went online and employees began working remotely, these same dining halls were empty (though food service was still available to the dozens of students who for various reasons remained on campus).
Since then, officials from Sodexo, the company that provides meal services to the university, has put in place practices to deal with the new reality wrought by the COVID-19 health crisis.
“We’ve always observed food safety, but now we will be doing even more,” said Joe Pina, campus executive chef and baker.
The kitchens were a particular hot spot, so to speak, for close contact between people. In the age of social distancing, Sodexo had to adapt.
“Many know we have these big beautiful dining rooms on campus, but what they don’t see is that our kitchens are smaller. Our chefs and cooks work in close quarters, it’s hot, there is steam and a lot of touch points,” said Staci DeSimone, the company’s general food service manager.
The answer was a transition to what’s called a “six-foot kitchen.” As the name suggests, those working in these spaces must be six feet away from coworkers as they prep, cook and deliver meals.
Additionally, Sodexo workers are being trained in areas including enhanced personal hygiene, cleaning contact service areas multiple times a day, keeping a safe distance during deliveries, sanitizing every product that comes through the door, wearing gloves, washing hands, and wearing masks not only in the kitchen but in the serving area as well.
Changes will also be made regarding dining room capacity.
“We want to manage the flow and make sure that guests are coming in one door and out the other,” DeSimone said.
Ultimately Pina said, the goal is to safely deliver meals and snacks to members of the BSU community.
“We want to make sure we always have the ability to safely provide nutritious meals every day,” Pina said. “That is our contribution to our students, helping them get through this OK.”
Sodexo employees say they will continue to work with university partners as they look to the future.
“We realize things are going to be different,” DeSimone said. “But we are looking to be innovative and, when students come back, to create an atmosphere that is safe and creates a sense of normalcy.”
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