At the start of the new semester, Peirce Dining Hall initially returned to its pre-COVID-19 service with a couple of significant new changes, including the cancellation of Late Night dining and the reappearance of allergen signs.
According to Robert Zoldak, resident director of AVI, Late Night was originally an extended period of dinner service specifically designed during the pandemic to help mediate large crowds of students during peak hours.
Late Night was hugely popular with students, and prompted the creation of an Instagram account @latenightkenyon. “It was always the highlight of our nights,” Bijan Khaghani ’23 and Will Engel ’23, the students behind the account, wrote in a message to the Collegian.
Despite overwhelming student support, Student Council Chair of Housing and Dining Ever Croffoot-Suede said that AVI lacked the staff or funding to continue the Late Night program.
Khaghani and Engel said that they understood the change. “Obviously we’re sad to see it go but given how big of a drain it was on the AVI workers, we understand that it wouldn’t be around forever.”
When asked whether Late Night would make a return, Zoldak said that the decision was not up to him. “The COVID Steering Committee is the ones who make recommendations for changes,” he said. “We are at the service of Kenyon.’’ At the same time, Zoldak had good news to share: A grab-and-go station will be opening in Gund Commons this month.
In addition to this new dining option, changes are also coming to the servery stations. Executive Chef Jeremy Fonner is working towards making the vegetarian station fully vegan, so it will be accessible to a greater number of students.
While this change will help, some students still have concerns about the availability of vegetarian meals.
“If I go there after 7 p.m., sometimes they will run out of food at the vegetarian section and a lot of times I can’t really get anything from the vegan fridge besides yogurt and cheese,” said Ray Muzilla ’24.
On the other hand, the over-enrollment of students this year, hasn’t made much of an impact on Peirce operations regarding food preparation, according to Zoldak.
“When you are dealing with food, a hundred more [students] are nothing,” he explained.
Even though seating was originally a concern, with all of the dining rooms now open, Zoldak observed that it wasn’t as big of an issue as he originally thought. He also noted that as they timed students, they found it takes longer for students to go through the servery now, speculating that this was because students were spending more time choosing which station to go to.
Another change Peirce implemented this semester is putting up the signs for allergens, which they removed last semester after the introduction of the NetNutrition website. Zoldak explained that they brought the signs back because Peirce is currently in a transition period of introducing a new app called Dish to replace NetNutrition, and noted that it is better to err on the side of caution when dealing with allergens.
With the sudden eruption of COVID-19 cases on campus and shift to takeout-only from Peirce, the staff members at AVI are primarily focused on health and safety. Though mostly similar to last semester, the takeout situation has a few differences in operation: Namely, the salad, dessert and drinks sections of the servery are now self-serve instead of being packaged by staff.
Zoldak said these changes had to be made suddenly.
“I was just totally caught off guard by this COVID situation,” he said.
In addition, the Peirce Pub will be set up again as a station for quarantined students, including those who have tested positive for COVID-19, to get food.