A Reflection on UGA Dining Fall 2020

In an effort to remain adherent to COVID-19 regulations and guidelines on health and safety, UGA Dining Services has continuously issued out plan after plan this fall semester to handle the thousands of students who maintain meal plans on this campus. As someone who would spend hours of studying, people watching, and socializing in the dining halls, the news that there would be no on-campus dining really struck a nerve with me. My friends and I discussed extensively about how much we loved sitting around a table at O-House eating bucketloads of banana pudding or spending entire Sundays at Bolton studying in the area behind the vegetarian section, often never leaving until after dinner time.

It made me really sad to hear how many freshmen were disgruntled by the dining hall food this semester and seeing so many Tik Toks about UGA’s food. My heart really goes out to all the college freshmen this year who aren’t having as much of that “college experience” as they’d like, but UGA Dining Services has really tried to make their experience as safe, healthy, and Bulldawg-friendly as possible.

Here are what I consider some of the pros and cons of this fall semester’s dining hall experience.

  1. 1. Pro: The Grubhub Partnership

    Right off the bat, I was thoroughly impressed by how Dining Services partnered up with the food delivery/ordering app Grubhub. This partnership offered a wonderfully efficient and convenient way to pick up your food and any other snacks or drinks you’d want from a nearby dining hall and take it back to your room or any other spot on campus. I like how you can order a few items and have your meals and snacks planned for the day or save them for another day, as well as how they would try to make people maintain social distancing within the buildings as you pick up your food. They also have a variety of different cereals, sandwiches, and drinks for you to choose from.

  2. 2. Con: Grubhub Fatigue

    As much as I really liked the convenience of the Grubhub pickup option, I used it so much in the beginning of the school year that I couldn’t eat sandwiches or pre-packaged salads for about two weeks after a few weeks of constant Grubhub meals. My roommate and I quickly became tired of the same old sandwich and salad options that often we would just opt for ordering some of the cereals, snacks, and drinks instead. This could have just been an “us” thing, but after talking to some other people living on-campus with the same experience, it was clear that most people were tired of the same things being offered.

  3. 3. Pro: Bulldog Boxes and Takeout Meals

    After two years of being a UGA student and seeing how my friends liked using the Bulldog boxes at O-House, I was ready to commit to being a Bulldog box user myself this semester. Of course, that ended up being a necessity with COVID, but I really liked how UGA was trying to be as sustainable as possible with these reusable and microwaveable takeout boxes. Sure, getting your meals from the dining hall now meant not being able to eat it within the dining hall, (unless you have a reservation), but I kind of liked being able to eat in the comfort of my room or at a picnic table outside or under a tree on a lawn somewhere. And I sure missed UGA dining hall food the past few months in quarantine.

  4. 4. Con: The Switch to Compostable Boxes

    This has more to do with the students who didn’t return their boxes to the dining halls or would throw them away, as if there weren’t signs posted around the dining halls/dining areas or directions in UGA Dining Services’ emails that they’d send out continuously. The fact that we had to switch from the reuseable, microwaveable boxes to the brown compostable ones was rather tragic, and I was disappointed in my fellow Bulldawgs for not being able to keep up. Now, I’m pretty sure most people just throw away the compostable boxes because they’re not sure where to put them to ensure they’re actually composted, not to mention that the material offers more room for spills and leaks through soiled box bottoms.

  5. 5. Pro: Dining Halls with COVID-Adherent Features

    Before school started, UGA Dining Services produced a video tutorial on how on-campus dining would work with new COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines, and I applaud them for their continuous work in this area. As much as I miss that genuine college dining hall experience, (I mean come on, I’m a Snellebrating veteran over here!), I obviously understand the reasoning behind putting these rules and guidelines in place. From the placement markers on the floor placed six-feet apart, to the face mask requirement, to the workers wearing both masks and gloves, I appreciate how much UGA Dining Services has tried to maintain health and safety protocols while still providing as much of that classic dining hall experience as possible.

  6. 6. Pro: The Quick Markets

    A more recent addition to UGA Dining Services are the smaller “Quick Markets” around campus near the Creswell and Hill Community Residence Halls, next to Busbee Hall, and inside Georgia Room II in Snelling Dining Commons. These Quick Markets offer a variety of grab-and-go menu items, including pre-made sandwiches, wraps, salads, frozen meals, desserts, drinks, candies, cereals, yogurt cups, chips, and fresh fruit. I definitely prefer these over Grubhub now, and my roommate and I take full advantage of the Quick Market in East Campus. Even in these tiny Quick Markets, students are encouraged to maintain COVID health and safety guidelines as well, sanitizing hands and standing six-feet apart from other patrons.

FINAL THOUGHTS?

So yeah, as much as I miss eating in the usually-bustling dining halls, sitting at a table with my friends and people watching, overall I’d have to say that my dining experience this fall with all of UGA Dining Services’ new guidelines and features has been pretty good given the circumstances. I do think some things need to be changed or addressed, like clearly stating what to do with the compostable boxes. Even so, I’m pretty content with how UGA Dining Services has tried to keep on-campus dining as both safe and full of Bulldawg spirit as possible this semester.