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Behind the Scenes of a Socially-Distanced Dining Hall
Yongjin Park '22 Copy Editor
October 31, 2020

One of Deerfield’s hallmark traditions is the sit-down meal, where both students and faculty have a chance to meet different members of the community. However, due to new regulations and health guidelines, the dining hall has had to make numerous adjustments this year, including the temporary removal of sit-down meals. 

Director of Food Services Michael McCarthy and Assistant Director of Food Services Bradley Woodward explained that the Dining Hall has put many new safety precautions in place. 

They said, “All of the employees are wearing masks, and there are polycarbonate dividers separating the line servers from the students. We have similar barriers in the kitchen to help separate workers while they are preparing food.” 

While safety standards have increased this year, the preparation of meals has largely remained the same. For example, the process of cooking different dishes has not changed. While some processes did not have to be adjusted, the Dining Hall has faced new challenges in trying to ensure the community stays healthy. 

McCarthy and Woodward explained, “What has changed is the need to make individual portions of many things such as salads, condiments, and bakery items like cookies and bread.” 

They added that “the planning process was long and difficult. Sourcing everything, from equipment to food, has been much more difficult than in years past. Learning how to provide service in such a new way, especially the dorm deliveries, has been challenging as well.” 

With all these efforts from the Dining Hall, both faculty and students have expressed their gratitude and support to everyone working to prepare meals for the entire community. 

When asked about the new dining experience, Alex Yuk ’21 said, “I think Deerfield, with the current circumstances, came up with creative solutions to problems such as the crowded Dining Hall during meal times by creating staggered classes and utilizing take-out style meals.” 

Yuk added, “People now have the freedom to eat in more locations than before because before [this year] we were not technically allowed to bring dishes out from the Dining Hall.” 

For lunch, students have a designated table in the East Gym, the Kravis Room, or one of the tents where they are required to eat. However, students have the freedom to eat at any place on campus for dinner, given that they remain socially distanced from one another. 

Another important change is the separation of faculty and students in dining spaces this year. 

Latin Instructor Geoffrey Moseley explained that faculty now get their meals from a different location to students. He said, “On weekdays, we pick up our lunches from a food truck near the Mods—pickup time is staggered by department—and breakfast and dinner are available for pickup in the Parker Room.” 

 Moseley added, “Overall, I’ve been very happy with the lunch options at the food truck and the efficiency of the system.” 

While the system has largely been effective, some issues with the system have arisen. Some teachers have very tight schedules that allow for little time to eat, and new faculty members may find the new dining system more confusing than the returning members. 

History and Social Science Teacher Kiyomasa Kuwana said, “The most difficult part is the transition from Period 1 to Period 2, because I have a class observation in the first period, 40 minutes to eat, and then make sure I am ready for my second period. That’s quite quick and I usually try to just eat by myself and make sure that I have taken care for in terms of class prep.” 

While lunch is a busy time for both students and teachers, dinner gives an opportunity to meet others and eat without rush. Mr. Kuwana shared, “Dinner has been a good time to grab food and connect with other faculty members outside. Unlike sit-down dinners and sit-down lunches, I think it is less of an opportunity to connect with other faculty members, but I feel that if I seek it out it is there.” 

There have also been some instances when the lines in the Dining Hall have become disarranged and crowded, especially when students are let out of classes or co-curriculars at the same time. Yuk said, “I think sometimes the lines become cluttered during dinners because of sports co-curriculars at around 5:45 to 6.” 

Mr. McCarthy and Mr. Woodward shared the same opinion. They explained, “The biggest challenge from [our] perspective is the need for students to come to meals at their scheduled times. That is very difficult for a lot of students, and it seems like many students do not come at the correct times. [Our] biggest concern is overloading the capacity of the lines and making the dining hall an unsafe environment.”

Compared to previous years, the 2020 Fall Term has been uncomfortable and frustrating for many students. However, this dissatisfaction is shared by the entire community, including the faculty and staff members. 

“Believe [us], the dining hall staff would love things to be ‘normal’ just as much or even more than the students. Hopefully if we continue to do well as a community we can slowly bring back more of what everyone is used to,” Mr. McCarthy and Mr. Woodward commented.