When students returned to the University of New Hampshire (UNH) campus for the 2020 fall semester, they were met with new regulations and changes on campus due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. One of the many changes that took place was the way in which students could eat and get food from campus dining locations. With the university’s plan to be fully operational by the fall 2021 semester, UNH Dining hopes to safely make some changes while adhering to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) recommended guidelines. 

UNH Dining Halls – Philbrook, Holloway Commons, Stillings: 

For UNH Dining, the top priority this semester was adhering to all safety guidelines to ensure the health and wellbeing of dining staff and guests in each of the dining halls. There are no specific changes that have been made to the dining halls for the fall semester, but as the start date nears, UNH Dining will outline what changes have been made and what restrictions will remain in place until further notice.  

“Over the past year we were able to cautiously increase our variety of offerings in the dining halls while still adhering to these guidelines, ensuring the safety of our guests and our staff,” said Kate Boyle, the general manager of retail dining at UNH. “We continue to monitor these guidelines and are in frequent contact with representatives of the DHHS. Again, we are optimistic that the guidelines will continue to loosen to the extent that we will be able to safely reopen our full retail café program as well.” 

Café Central and UNH retail locations 

Café Central was created at the start of this school year to provide students, faculty and staff with some of UNH’s most popular retail café menu items. It is located in the concession area of the Whittemore Center Arena and allows social distancing and more space for safety. Boyle noted that most of UNH’s cafés are too small to adhere to the safety guidelines which resulted in their closure for the year, but Café Central is a new option due to the closure of other dining locations. 

“While we do not have concrete answers yet regarding how things will look in the fall, I am hopeful that Café Central will have served its purpose at that point,” said Boyle. “We are very optimistic that we will start to see the reopening of student favorites like Cornerstone, Zeke’s, Albert’s, etc.” 

What about the Dairy Bar and Union Court? 

Earlier this year, the Dairy Bar announced its indefinite closure. The location and space became too difficult to adhere to pandemic guidelines especially as the weather became colder and people were choosing indoor seating over outdoor.  

“While it may appear spacious from the outside, our kitchen and dining areas presented physical distancing challenges…I am optimistic that we will be open again this summer, utilizing the same outdoor order-window style of service that allowed us to operate safely last summer,” stated Boyle. “We are actively assessing the menus for safety of execution, and we will be sure to announce an official opening date on our social media channels once one has been determined.” 

As for Union Court, a student lunchtime favorite, the university has assessed that they are not able to safely adhere to guidelines with the former operational model due to space and capacity restrictions. Boyle said that the dining team is currently focusing on the future of the space and how it can best embody the spirit of the Memorial Union Building (MUB) while still providing a safe and enjoyable dining experience.  

“We are excited to be working with a sub-group of student government to brainstorm what that may look like,” said Boyle. “The plan is to work closely with the MUB staff to integrate entertainment and dining in the space.” 

While a lot of the future dining plans remain up in the air, the UNH dining staff is working diligently to provide safe and necessary accommodations to keep everyone safe while COVID-19 remains. The dining team is continuously making changes as they see fit and are updating the community via the dining website and social media platforms.  

Photos courtesy of the University of New Hampshire.