Whether you are a new or returning student, eating in public is a big jump from where we were a year ago. Although the majority of the student population is vaccinated, new threats such as the Delta variant are still cause for caution. Lewis & Clark’s COVID-19 policy still requires everyone to be masked indoors, with the exception of when they are eating or drinking. This means that anyone who wants to eat a meal at Fields Dining Hall must sit with dozens of other unmasked individuals.
Fields Dining Hall, also known as the Bon, recently changed their dining policy due to a staffing shortage. Now, students are only able to use disposable dishes when dining. This compensates for the Bon’s lack of staff by reducing the labor required for washing dishes. Because of this, students are allowed to take their food outside the dining hall to eat it, but are not allowed to reenter afterwards. This system provides students with the ability to gauge their comfort for eating inside and make a decision that is best for them. When the staffing shortage gets resolved, to-go disposable dishes should remain a permanent option for students.
Last year, the Bon offered takeout to LC students, with only a few exceptions when Multnomah county policy changed to allow limited in-house dining. And even when there was in-house dining, to-go boxes were the default. Students were able to place orders using the “Get” app and specify what they wanted. When they would come pick it up, it would automatically charge it to their meal plan and voilà; students could grab their bag of food from the pick-up area, located in the double-door entrance right outside of the Bon, and be on their way. Because of the unprecedented circumstances last year, we know that the Bon has the capacity for takeout.
However, this year the Bon decided to completely transition back to in-house eating only. The risks are high in terms of COVID-19 safety, even with such a high rate of vaccination. Some students may still feel more comfortable eating outside the dining hall where they can control their own circumstances.
There are multiple problems with indoor dining including the limited ventilation in the cafeteria, infrequent sanitation for high-touch surfaces and the difficulty of contact tracing.
I believe that it would be in the best interest of the student body for the Bon to employ what I am coining as “hybrid dining.” Students should be given the choice to place pickup orders online. They could then pick their orders up in the old designated pick-up area, just like last year. Instead of waiting in line to swipe a meal card, one could just show their receipt for their order and head in. Dine-in eating can continue to be an option for students, but students should not have to sacrifice their safety for a hot meal.
Not only would a takeout option be safer, it would also be more convenient. Natalie Zoz ’23, points out that the old system was “super convenient, because you could order in between classes and it did a lot to reduce the number of people waiting in line.” We have all felt our stomach drop after coming upon the mammoth Bon line, so why not tame that beast through takeout? With an additional takeout line, Bon-ing could be drastically expedited for everyone.
The idea of offering takeout to students is not new. Both University of Portland and Reed College offer takeout options to their students. So why are we lagging behind? The answer is unclear. The Bon has the ability to provide takeout, but cost may be a factor here. Providing takeout materials such as boxes does present the Bon with a significant added cost. Additionally, using to-go boxes would add to LC’s waste production, which was a serious issue last year.
As more establishments transition to using biodegradable takeout containers, the prices of providing this service have increased. However, the Bon has demonstrated its ability to pay for a year’s worth of takeout material last year.
Bringing takeout back to the Bon would make eating at the dining hall a safer and more convenient experience for all students.
Illustration by Umi Caldwell