In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the University of New Hampshire (UNH) sent students, staff and faculty home to work remotely for the rest of the semester. Almost every quintessential part of campus has closed its doors. However, there is one campus building that remains fully functional: Stillings Dining Hall.
Stillings Dining Hall will be open 7 days a week from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. UNH Dining has taken extra precautions to ensure best safety practices and comply with the state’s directives.
“We’ve changed a lot actually,” Corinne Quaglieri, a local student who has worked for UNH Dining since 2018, said. “Regularly [Stillings] is a buffet style where students serve themselves, but now we have to make everything for them and serve everything to them.”
All food is take-out only. Instead of being served in the typical green reusable to-go containers, food is being served in disposable take-out boxes. The dining areas have been blocked off by tape with all the chairs and tables stacked and moved aside. This is complaint with New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu’s orders on March 16 that asked restaurants to suspend in-house dining services and provide take-out meals only.
There is a worker at every station who will prepare and serve meals by request. The individually wrapped food and dessert items are handed to patrons under a glass panel. There is a worker by the fountain drinks who dispenses beverages and hands them out over a pile of chairs.
“Us workers also all have to stand six-feet apart from each other which means that there is only one of us at each station” Quaglieri said.
UNH Dining has also taken extra sanitary precautions. Everyone is required to sanitize their hands before entering and additional sanitizing wipes are provided for anyone to additionally use. There are notices that ask patrons to sanitize and remain six feet apart from each other. Signs are placed on the floor, each six feet apart from each other, for everyone to use as a reference.
Dining staff is also cleaning more regularly. Materials and dining stations that typically received a deep clean weekly are now being cleaned once a day. Workers change serving utensils, spatulas and gloves every 30 minutes.
“It’s different, but I don’t have a problem with it. Honestly, I think the food is better and fresher,” Lauren Kusinski, a first-year UNH student who stayed on campus over spring break and ate at Stillings, said. “I definitely felt safe and feel like the steps they took were necessary to prevent any disease spread.” Quaglieri also feels safe at work and said that she is not worried about contracting the virus at work.
In an email sent out to UNH students, staff, and faculty, UNH President James Dean wrote that the university is preparing to serve as overflow space for quarantine housing for health care personnel. In his statement, he referred to Stillings possibly being utilized and said “our dining hall will provide takeout meals for anyone sheltering on our Durham campus.”