By Jillian Kirkham
With COVID-19 taking the world by storm things have had to drastically change. Social distancing, wearing masks and proper sanitization are among the important tasks required by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to remain safe. This is more prevalent in public places like doctor’s offices, restaurants and schools, especially in the dining areas. The AVI team are no strangers to these new protocols, but it may come as a shock just how many people are terrified by the looming threat of a virus. “We’re short 11 positions this year.” Francesca PerfettoYanik, food service director, said. “No one wants to work in a large place with a bunch of students who may or may not follow safety guidelines… though Malone students have continued to shock me with how well they’re following protocol.” Being short staffed has caused issues with quick table washing and lines for food backed up from one end of the cafeteria to another.“We’re so understaffed we’ve reached out to the community for volunteers. Only a few have answered that call… I’m always willing to accept more,” Perfetto-Yanik said upon seeing an anonymous suggestion card, which read: “Get the tables cleaned faster!!!… that is normal common courtesy.” For students looking for ways to serve, lending a hand to the AVI team is a perfect way to get involved and remain involved. Another issue COVID-19 has caused is the struggle to social distance. Due to safety guidelines, the cafeteria is only allowed to have so many people inside at a time and because of this the desk workers are often closing the entryway or telling people to wait a moment as the cafeteria has reached maximum capacity. “Students are cursing at my workers for things we can’t control,” Perfetto-Yanik said. “Poor Kathy takes the brunt of it during most of the lunch shifts… I’ve offered use of, and even encouraged, the Deuble room as an alternative, but students aren’t willing to leave their friends.” With social distancing comes the spacing of tables and the amount of chairs at each one. The AVI team spent countless hours before the semester started, and continue to do so as the semester progresses, measuring and making sure the distances are up to code.“We discourage dragging chairs from one table to another,” Perfetto-Yanik said. “We have them set to avoid having more than eight to ten people close together at a time and even that is pushing things.” COVID-19 has caused limited availability to certain foods and, in some cases, utensils. This has impacted students with allergies and students placed in quarantine or isolation more than most. The AVI team has continued to serve regardless of these complications. Another comment card reads: “I pay WAY too much money for the cafeteria to be told by the workers they don’t have ketchup or cream cheese. Also, get a dishwasher on the weekends so I can cut my food up. I can’t cut with plastic. Workers should not huff and puff when I have to ask for something extra that I cannot get.” Condiments, coffee and silverware are among the items that are now being controlled. With the new guidelines, letting these items sit out is not safe due to all the hands that would inevitably be on them. The green box program is also suffering due to COVID-19. For students in isolation/quarantine who receive their meals in their room, they’ve started receiving styrofoam containers because many of the green boxes have been thrown away instead of returned to the Caf. With the boxes being cut from five dollars to three dollars, this is a significant loss in more than one way to the AVI team. However, despite all of the new rules, there are still some students who have not lost faith in the AVI team and how they’re working through this pandemic. “Even with COVID-19, they’re doing the best that they can,” Brittany Knoch, a senior exercise science major, said. “I’m a vegan and they’ve done a good job having more options for students with allergens and dietary needs… They almost always implement things students ask for.” It is important to remember that tough times require patience and group cooperation. The AVI team is working as diligently as they can to keep people safe, happy and to retain the community and family aspect they have always aspired to facilitate. Malone University truly has a team of super heroes on its side.