Campus dining halls adjust to COVID-19; Sanford and Comstock to close

Sanford and Comstock Hall dining locations will close March 23 with Pioneer, Middlebrook, Bailey and 17th Avenue locations remaining operational.

Pioneer Halls newly renovated dining hall as seen on Wednesday, Aug. 21.

Cleo Krejci

Pioneer Hall’s newly renovated dining hall as seen on Wednesday, Aug. 21.

by Abbey Machtig

University of Minnesota dining halls are instituting new safety procedures for the food preparation and distribution process during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Although classes will be held online through the end of the semester, M Dining will continue to operate dining locations in order to serve students who will remain on campus, many of them with meal plans. Employees are implementing service modifications introduced by the University’s Health Emergency Response Office and the Department of Environmental Health and Safety.

“People in dining service have always worn protective gear, and I think a great deal of attention is being paid to it now,” said Mick Kelly, a chef for M Dining. “So you see people who are wearing gloves and see a great deal of sanitizing of surfaces on a very regular basis, if not continuous.”

In response to the smaller number of students on campus, Sanford and Comstock Hall dining locations will be closed beginning March 23 for the remainder of the semester with Pioneer, Middlebrook, Bailey and 17th Avenue locations remaining open.

Sanitation efforts include increased cleaning of touch screens, dish drop areas, doors and handles, said Lacey Nygard, a University spokesperson. Additionally, personal and reusable dishes will no longer be permitted, with the exception of official M Dining to-go boxes.

In order to address contamination of frequently used objects, employees will replace utensils every 20 minutes. Salt and pepper shakers and condiments will be moved to a centralized location for frequent sanitation or replaced with individual packets when possible.

M Dining staff and employees have also received instructions to wash their hands every 20 minutes and will undergo hygiene spot checking. As part of this, employees are being asked to change into their uniforms upon arrival and change prior to departure from work, Nygard said.

“[Staff] should be taking the same precautions that are required when making or serving any food, like washing hands thoroughly, using sanitizer after handwashing and making sure food contact surfaces are cleaned as often as needed,” said Joellen Feirtag, an associate professor and food safety specialist in the Department of Food Science and Nutrition in an email to the Minnesota Daily. “These requirements according to the Minnesota Food Code, if followed, should make dining and eating safe.”

Additional updates to dining policies and procedures will be shared with students and posted on the Safe Campus website, Nygard said.