Although many universities immediately began offering only virtual classes when the coronavirus pandemic hit, Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I., never fully closed their doors. After making the decision to keep the campus open to culinary lab students, their dining rooms had to quickly adapt to the foodservice restrictions set by the state to keep everyone safe and well fed.
“We were open all summer with culinary lab students, about 600 students on campus and about 400 students living on campus. I want to say—knock on wood—we have done it seamlessly,” said Rotondi.
For the 2020/2021 school year, the JWU campus welcomed back first year students, lab students and commuter students who participated in classes that are in a hybrid-format. If a returning student was traveling from one of the states on Rhode Island’s hot spot list, they were required to quarantine for 14 days.
“When we found out that we were going to potentially quarantine up to 800 students…that’s when our executive chef said to me, ‘[the culinary school] is using these boxes, we need [our Cambro rep] to get us these boxes,” said Rotondi.
“I was nervous that [the Cam GoBoxes] weren’t going to hold up, that they were going to get beat up, but when I went and saw the [Cam GoBoxes] that culinary was using, theirs were almost a year old and they looked brand new. That meant a lot to me,” said Rotondi.
JWU’s campus dining ended up purchasing 50 Cam GoBoxes, 50 Cam GoBox Extenders and 15 Camdolly Compacts. Rotondi measured both the GoBoxes and their to-go containers and decided to purchase an extender for each box so that they could fit even more into each one.
“It’s worked so well.” said Rotondi.
Quarantined students received their meals in two different ways. First, GoBoxes were packed with meals and left at dorms’ front desk for students to grab when they picked up their keys. Afterward, Rotondi and her team would bring a truck to four different locations at various times. They would set up tables and work out of pre-packed GoBoxes.
“The students come up, they place their order and then we bag their order and we put it in an area where they can pick it up contactless,” said Rotondi. “This is so important for us. I want to make sure that they feel like we’re doing whatever steps we need to take to make them feel welcome. Come on outside, get some good food, see some people.”
Students were offered a variety of meals, snacks and drinks; any meal offered in the dining room could be picked up at the food truck.
Moving forward, students can use the dining facilities if they wish or take advantage of a number of new options created in response to the coronavirus.
“We added different Grab-N-Go items, Grab-N-Go entrees that are cold, but preprepared, we never had that really. We never had the option to take a full meal that is ready for you and you can take it back and heat it up on your own however you want,” said Rotondi. “They have more freedom than they probably ever did. It’s almost a little better.”
In addition to diversifying their menu choices, campus dining has a decreased seating capacity, masks must be worn in common areas and tables are disinfected between students.
Cam GoBoxes protect hot or cold food for at least four hours and are offered in a variety of sizes. Durable yet lightweight, the Cam GoBox is manageable for any employee or student to handle. Contact your Cambro rep for more information.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: ADRIANA DESIDERIO IS THE DIGITAL CONTENT MANAGER AT CAMBRO.