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IU Dining addresses complaints over changes to food system due to COVID-19



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A student opens the Grubhub app on their phone Aug. 26. IU Dining has partnered with Grubhub to allow for delivery and carryout orders at campus dining halls. Photo Illustration by Colin Kulpa

With the COVID-19 pandemic altering aspects of college, parents and students have criticized how dining at IU is changing.

IU parents’ and students’ concerns regarding limited meal options and long wait times were discussed during a webinar with faculty from IU Dining and Residential Programs and Services on Wednesday.

Dr. Aaron Carroll, director of surveillance and mitigation for IU's COVID-19 response team and Rahul Shrivastav, executive director of IU Dining, joined the online panel discussion with others at noon. About 300 people were in attendance. 

Shrivastav addressed worries over the availability of healthy options in the dining halls. In response, he recommended IU Dining’s Good to Go shops. G2G offers fresh options such as an allergen-free bento box, fruit and various salads. These shops will be available through Grubhub at Gresham Eatery, Read Direct, Woodland Eatery and Wright Eatery. 

Vegetarian and vegan options are available at Collins Eatery, which does not serve meat in any capacity, Shrivastav said. However, freshman Margaret Robinson said even with these options she still has difficulty finding meals that fit her needs.

“I’m vegan so it’s pretty hard to get food because everything is sold out,” Robinson said. “As long as you order your dinner at lunchtime, you’re fine.”

Her fellow freshman Abby Peterson said she has had several orders canceled after they were placed due to items selling out. 

Attendees also voiced concerns over how long students waited for food across campus. According to Shrivastav, students are primarily facing issues at Wright, Woodland and Gresham eateries. Freshman Sonya Grewal said she rarely receives her food in the time span allotted by the Grubhub app.

“It’s bothersome that wait times aren’t accurate,” Grewal said. “Basically double your wait time and that’s about right.”

IU Dining will now attempt to redistribute traffic by recommending students go to lesser-used eateries such as Goodbody and Collins.

Shrivastav also said two of the Indiana Memorial Union’s dining options, Sugar & Spice and The Chocolate Moose, will open Monday. 

IU Dining was asked why students must pick up their pre-packaged food at the dining halls as opposed to ordering and eating indoors.

“A lot of it is common sense safety issues,” Carroll said. “We can’t really have buffets. We can’t have self-service. That involves people getting very close to the food and that’s how the virus gets from one person to another or one person to the food.”

Carroll described eating as a high-risk activity, which he said is why IU has set up pickup options as opposed to a socially distanced dine-in experience. The additional packaging that meals come in is used for added safety, but Shrivastav said he understands people’s concerns over the additional waste.

“I worked very, very hard over the last three years to reduce waste on campus,” Shrivastav said. “This situation has actually increased packaging, unfortunately. We’re working with folks from our purveyors to make sure the waste is being reduced.”

RPS interim Executive Director Luke Leftwich said the IU Dining staff is under additional stress due to their current health guidelines, which has added to recent delays because the team is short on staff at times.

“Food safety is absolutely number one,” Leftwich said. “As such, we have very strict protocols as to how we have our staff test themselves. If they show any symptoms whatsoever they are not welcome to come to work that day.” 

Leftwich estimates that employees call-off work sick at a rateof around 30% each day. In response, RPS has hired 87 new employees onto their dining staff.

For more updates, Shrivastav recommended reading up on IU newsletters, as well as following IU Dining on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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