Creating a Healthy Dining Environment for Students
by Emily Arntsen
Outdoor seating, healthy distancing, and constant cleaning are just a few of the safety measures Northeastern’s dining services are taking as the university’s Boston campus prepares to welcome students back this fall.
Northeastern’s 30 dining facilities on the Boston campus served 20,000 meals daily before the pandemic. Now, those facilities are being adapted to meet public health guidelines in accordance with the CDC and promote a safe environment for Northeastern’s community to grab meals and socialize.
“We know that dining is an incredibly important time to meet new people, to make friends, to connect,” says Madeleine Estabrook, senior vice chancellor for student affairs at Northeastern. “We want to make sure there are opportunities for that kind of gathering.”
Left, a new no-touch way to scan Husky cards in the International Village Dining facility. Right, members of the Northeastern facilities team sanitize and clean the International Village Dining facility. Photos by Ruby Wallau/Northeastern University
At least every 30 minutes, a cleaning crew will use sanitation products approved by the EPA or Food and Drug Administration to wipe down contact surfaces that may have been touched by guests or employees. Additionally, the dining facilities will be shut down in between breakfast, lunch, and dinner periods to undergo thorough cleanings. During those shutdown periods, public health protocols will be reviewed with the dining staff. The hours of operation for these dining halls are still being decided.
To reduce the number of people touching serving utensils, there will be no self-service at any dining facility. At sit-down locations, meals and drinks will be served by dining employees in lieu of buffet-style service. All other meals will be packaged to go. A no-touch system will be used to swipe students into dining halls.
The university has also extended its meal exchange program, the system that allows students to use meal swipes in lieu of cash or credit to purchase food to-go, to new locations on campus. The university has also expanded the number of campus eateries that accept orders made through Boost, a mobile food ordering app designed for college campuses.
A member of the Northeastern facilities team cleans the entrance to the International Village Dining facility, where students will check in for their dining reservations. Photo by Ruby Wallau/Northeastern University
To promote the safety of everyone inside the dining halls, students will wear face masks at all times except for when they’re seated and eating. Dining employees will wear masks and gloves at all times and regularly clean their surroundings.
At dine-in locations, seating will be limited, in accordance with public health guidelines. But even though seats will be six feet apart, students will still be able to enjoy meals with friends and socialize safely. To make following the guidelines easier, all dining halls will be clearly marked with signs that indicate where people should stand to maintain a healthy distance from one another.
The university has set up each of the three main dining halls differently in order to offer guests the opportunity to choose from several dining experiences.
In the event that students need to quarantine because of positive COVID-19 test results, three meals per day will be delivered to their on-campus Wellness housing assignments. Grab-and-go meals will be available for students who need to quarantine because they traveled to Boston from outside of Massachusetts. These meals will be covered by the student’s meal plan.
Members of the Northeastern facilities team clean food trays and soda fountains, which will no longer be self-service to promote sanitation. Photos by Ruby Wallau/Northeastern University
The university will require all students to be tested at an on-campus facility immediately upon arrival at the Boston campus and then immediately enter quarantine. Students will also be required to be tested two more times, on the third and fifth day after the initial test.
Students whose first test comes back negative will be allowed to discontinue their quarantine immediately. After the third test comes back negative, students will be able to fully engage in campus activities, such as attending classes in person and eating sit-down meals in the dining halls.
All ventilation within dining halls, residence halls, classrooms, and other buildings on campus will follow recommendations and best practices from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in addition to professional and trade organizations, including the National Air Filtration Association, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, and Leadership in Education Facilities.
International Village will be open for sit-down, more traditional dining hall experience by reservation for busier meal times. Where and how far in advance students will need to book dining reservations is still being decided, as is the time limit on how long students will be allowed to stay in the dining hall. Seats and tables will be cleaned in between reservations.
Dining facilities intend to offer a majority of the same options as before the pandemic.
“We’re trying to keep it as close to the previous semesters as possible,” says Maureen Timmons, director of dining services. For example, there won’t be any make-your-own waffles, a Northeastern dining hall favorite. “But we’ll still have waffles. They’ll just be prepared by the dining associates instead,” says Timmons.
Levine Marketplace (Stetson East)
Stetson East will offer dine-in meals and food that is pre-packaged to go. Limited seating will be available inside Levine Marketplace. Meal exchange is now available for to-go meals.
Food Hall at Stetson West
Stetson West will offer only Outtakes-style service in the for takeaway sandwiches, salads, grain bowls and more. The Boost mobile app will be available for students to order from a set menu ahead of time for pick-up. Meal exchange is now available.
Additional Outdoor Seating
In order to supply seating in a safe environment, diners will be encouraged to eat at any of the four tents that Northeastern has acquired for the reopening of the Boston campus. The tents are similar to those that are being utilized by many restaurants throughout the U.S. that have reopened to outdoor dining in accordance with public health guidelines.
The sides of the tents may be raised or lowered, depending on the weather, and will be equipped with air purifiers as needed. In addition to providing an outdoor facility for diners, the tents may also be reserved online on a limited basis for use by student clubs. The tents will be subject to the same cleaning schedule as indoor spaces.
One tent will be located outside of Speare Hall on the wiffle ball field, one near West Village on the volleyball court, and two behind Robinson Hall. No reservations are required, and the temperature and airflow inside the tents will be regulated with air conditioners, heaters, and air purifiers as needed and in compliance with CDC guidelines. The tents will add between 200 and 250 extra seats for diners.
Dining at the Boston Symphony Orchestra
Packaged meals will be prepared and available for pick up at the Boston Symphony Orchestra, although there is limited seating (about 100 seats) at this location if students wish to eat their to-go meals there. Meal exchange will be available.
Rebecca’s Closed at Churchill Hall
The Rebecca’s cafe at Churchill Hall will be replaced with a cafe operated by Chartwells, the catering company that staffs and manages the student dining halls. These meals will be available through the meal exchange program.
Dining in the Curry Student Center
The following eateries will be open for takeaway. Orders can be placed on Boost for all locations excluding Starbucks and the Market, which is a convenience store. Seating inside Curry Student Center will be available, but reduced to comply with CDC guidelines.
- the Market
- Sweet Tomatoes Pizza (meal exchange now accepted)
- Tu Taco (pick up Boost orders at The West End, meal exchange now accepted)
- UBurger (meal exchange now accepted)
- Kigo Kitchen (meal exchange now accepted)
- Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen (meal exchange now accepted)
- The West End (meal exchange now accepted)
Where else to eat on campus?
- Dunkin’ — Shillman Hall (Dunkin’ mobile app accepted)
- Dunkin’ — Hayden Hall (Dunkin’ mobile app accepted)
- Caffé Strega — ISEC
- Wollaston’s Market — Marino Recreation Center
- Wollaston’s Market — West Village
- QDOBA Mexican Eats — 393 Huntington Ave.
- Tatte Bakery & Café — Marino Recreation Center
- Argo Tea — Snell Library (Boost now accepted)
- Subway — Ryder Hall (Boost now accepted, meal exchange now accepted)
- Café Crossing — International Village (Boost now accepted)
- café716 — 716 Columbus Place (Boost now accepted)
Written by Emily Arntsen, [email protected]