Sodexo’s mission unchanged by coronavirus

by Katelyn Cooke | News Writer

Many areas of campus look and operate differently in many ways this fall, including the dining hall. Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, Whitworth University and its hired food service company Sodexo have closely worked with the Spokane Regional Health Department. Their combined goals include providing students a safe, socially distanced, dining option that didn’t leave students waiting in line outside and allowed them to sit face to face with one another.

Chet Hunt is the operations manager for Sodexo at Whitworth. His priority throughout this whole process has been, “bottom line, safety.”

Alterations to the usual look and workings of the dining hall include hard plastic shields provided at serving stations and tables. These were constructed by members of the facilities department along with a Spokane community member, Dr. Bob Lutz. 

Also, the dining hall now sports social distancing floor dots and is equipped with heat monitoring technology. The real time data can be found on the Sodexo My Way app as well as on the website and shows the capacity for the dining areas and help students navigate where to sit and when to get a meal. 

Hunt also described their focus is speed of service, in which the goal is short wait times, shorter lines and effective social distancing. 

“If you think about it, when you have 10 people in line, six feet apart, that’s a 60-foot line,” Hunt said. 

To accommodate with the changes of service, Hunt says that they have hired more employees to double their staff. Staff members are protected with plastic shields and where masks provided by the company. 

Recently, certain self-serve items have been phased back in. Now, when students go to serve themselves cereal, or push the buttons for juice or coffee, the expectations are they put on thin deli gloves, according to Hunt.  

Providing a way to still be able to eat with friends and peers was something Hunt and the team worked hard on accomplishing. 

“[This gives students the opportunity] to still come eat with your friends with that barrier and element of safety so you can take your mask off. And in crazy times like this, it still feels a little bit human,” Hunt said. 

Megan Helm is the general manager for Sodexo at Whitworth. Hunt describes her as the ‘mastermind’ behind the Coronavirus precautions keeping students safe.

Helm mentioned that student appreciation via comment cards or emails are much appreciated for all the staff members who show up every day to serve the students.

Hunt and Helm made it clear Sodexo is trying it’s best to give students what they want and keep them safe while still in this first safe stage of opening.

If a student or parent has a suggestion for Sodexo based on their dining experiences they can send it directly through this link.