A Pearson food services employee prepares food while wearing personal protective equipment. Photo Courtesy of NCCU Dining

Eagle Dining aims to keep students safe amidst COVID-19 precautions

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Since the start of COVID-19, how we dine has changed a lot.

Whether on or off-campus, everyone should still follow the CDC recommendations like wearing masks and socially distancing but how are these changes being implemented at N.C. Central University?

For many students who live on-campus, once going out and eating at the W.G. Pearson Cafeteria, commonly referred to as “the cafe” was a place to enjoy a full meal or snack, hang-out, and chat with friends. Today, Pearson is still serving students but the experience now comes with many added safety precautions due to COVID-19.

The Business and Auxiliary Services at N.C. Central, directed by Tim Moore, has implemented protective measures such as Plexiglas barriers, signage for customer queue lines for social distancing, and limiting the number of patrons that can be served when inside dining facilities.

Other procedures and protocols also include making sure all dining service faculty, students, and school faculty are wearing masks, receiving temperature checks upon entry and ensuring all touchpoints are sanitized and glove replacement every 30 minutes for staff members.

The overall goal the Business and Auxiliary Services wants to achieve with these changes is to adjust to the “new normal” and keep all customers, employees, and stakeholders safe. These changes went into effect last spring.

Pearson is the largest dining facility on campus. A modern cafeteria with a seating capacity of 1,750 students (now only seating 1,000 to ensure social distancing), also includes dining facilities for staff and various conference rooms.

Other dining establishments are also scattered around campus from the Shepard Library Starbucks to the Jazzman’s Café in the lobby of the Mary Townes Science Building. Eagle Dining Services are following the safety protocols recommended by the CDC and the Business and Auxiliary Services.

Eagle Dining Services staff will also follow a number of other procedures and protocols from the Business and Auxiliary services like wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), hand washing, checking team member health, ensuring food safety, sanitizing and disinfecting, socially distancing, provide service during quarantine, and do carry out/prepackaged options.

Sodexo, a French-owned food services corporation that employs more than 425,000 worldwide, operates Pearson.

Working alongside the Business and Auxiliary Services, Sodexo has implemented all CDC guidelines.

“The changes made were a joint effort with the university and the Sodexo team. NCCU has done a great job working with us to keep everyone safe,” said Sodexo general manager, Tony Hall. “The staff has adjusted very well to these changes and I am very proud of them. They have done a phenomenal job.”

According to Hall, there haven’t been any real changes in food preparations “but more so in how the staff interacts, such as wearing face masks, face shields, and staying six feet apart.”

Hall said he has even brought in a former health inspector to work with him and alongside staff.

Hall said prior to COVID-19, there was more of a community feel and more people dined inside compared to take-out but with the added safety procedures and protocols it’s understandable to see that has changed how people interact and the fact a certain amount of people are allowed inside.

Even though we are in the “new normal,” it’s safe to say we all hope to soon go back to the “old normal” where students, faculty, and dining staff at N.C. Central can go back to how things used to be and enjoy dining like an eagle family again.

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