FARMINGTON – The University of Maine at Farmington is back in full swing this year; staff and administrators welcomed roughly 2,400 students back to campus for what is being considered a “normal” year. Campus life was interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic all of last year, but director of Sodexo Food Services Adam Vigue said they’ve adjusted once again to offer a full lineup of food services.
“The emphasis is on making it comfortable for the students. Our first meal that we served was 600 people for lunch. We haven’t had counts like that for a long time. It was completely full, and it made some kids nervous,” Vigue said.
There have been a number of newly established options for students who are not comfortable with the close quarters, take away meals and zero-contact pick up services have helped ease some of the anxiety, Vigue said.
Last year the dining halls had limited seating of 50 students at any given time. Keeping students healthy was the name of the game, and the year was not only challenging, but discouraging, Vigue said. Rather than serve meals on washable, reusable dish ware, the kitchen was forced to pre-package meals, often in styrofoam or plastic. For a college with an eco-friendly focus, the switch was a difficult one to face. Vigue and his team came up with a solution to that problem for this year- reusable plastic to go containers with a tote bag for convenience. The tote bag not only makes the food easier to carry, it also advertises the service for others on campus. Students can pay a $5 deposit for a container that they have the entire year. Containers are returned to the cafeteria for disinfecting before being used again at the next meal. Food can also be ordered through a mobile app, and picked up at the front desk in the dining hall.
Another mobile ordering app, the Bite App, can be utilized for a no-contact pickup. Students place their order for food from any of the dining options on campus, and food can be picked up through a small window in the student center with it’s own separate entrance, allowing students to avoid the main pathway of peers heading to the dining hall.
Food services are available from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Vigue said they feed roughly 1,300 students each day in the dining halls. Masking requirements have not been an issue he said, and in general, students simply seem excited to be back.
“The last few weeks have gone really well. Students have bought in, and this wouldn’t be successful if they hadn’t. They’re making it work and they’re excited to be here,” President Edward Serna said.