Staff deliver meals to individual coolers for students in quarantine.

Quarantine Collaboration

September 16, 2022
This article originally appeared in Campus Dining Today, a member publication of the National Association of College and University Food Services (NACUFS).

When leaders at the University of Richmond (UR) first began planning for students to return to campus in the fall of 2020, Terry Baker, executive director of dining services, was at the table. “We collaborated with everyone from health services to housing to ensure our students in quarantine or isolation had everything they needed,” Baker said. “Our focus on culinary excellence and exemplary customer service did not waiver during the pandemic.”

QUARANTINE & ISOLATION ENDEAVORS

As an example of their innovation, UR was the first university in Virginia to use modular housing for students in Quarantine & Isolation (Q&I). In doing so, approximately 21 percent of the student population spent time in one of 100 private bedroom and bathroom units from September 2020-April 2022.

Upon arriving at their temporary living spaces, which contained a microwave and minifridge, students received a personal phone call from UR’s catering team to discuss their dietary preferences and allergy restrictions. Dining Services also coordinated with University Recreation and Wellness to provide welcome bags that included calming goodies like Sudoku puzzles and scalp massagers along with non-perishable snacks.

INCORPORATING TECHNOLOGY

Initially, Q&I students received an online ordering form via email. Joe Wolff, catering director, streamlined ordering and delivery by the time the number of students in Q&I peaked at 91. The university used Catertrax for meal orders beginning January 2021.

Wolff also simplified the menus to offer meat, vegetarian, or special diet with an option for special requests. Breakfasts included a variety of pastries, cereal, yogurt, and breakfast sandwiches. Nutritious lunch and dinner entrees and sides were prepared fresh, flash frozen, packaged with reheat instructions, and delivered to individual coolers outside occupied units each morning. Each meal bag also contained fresh whole fruit, a side salad with dressing, chips, dessert, and six beverages ranging from milk to Gatorade.

RESPONDING TO LABOR SHORTAGES

Like the rest of the country, the labor shortage created Wolff’s biggest challenge to adequately cover the program. Tyler Betzhold, executive chef, and the dining center team assembled and coordinated meals every day—a time-consuming task that needed to work seamlessly, and with accuracy, in addition to preparing daily meals in the dining center. Many employees took on double and triple duties. When possible, deliveries were consolidated to once daily, which helped the small catering team safely manage the cumbersome workload.

A CULTURE OF EXCELLENCE

Patrick Benner, director of residence life and housing, “From monitoring and caring for all our students’ dietary needs and restrictions, contacting students as soon as they were placed in Q&I (often times before they were transported), and providing bags for latenight placements into Q&I by our team, our dining services staff has been phenomenal.”

“We’ve been very responsive to student needs and very mindful to help whenever we get a call, 24/7,” Wolff added. “They have our direct numbers. I have a son who goes to this school, so any student who went into Q&I could have been my child and that’s how we strive to treat them.”

“I received lots of compliments from parents thanking us for taking care of their children,” adds Baker. “Our Q&I efforts were a true collaboration with many puzzle pieces that were successfully executed for our UR students.”