H1N1 fight at King’s brings more personal service

Dining hall workers handing out bread, condiments and cutlery

Maintenance worker, Kyle Colp, mans the bread station. (Photo: Laura Hochman)

The food service provider at the University of King’s College has brought maintenance staff and student workers into the dining hall as a part of its plan to prevent the spread of the H1N1 virus on campus. 

Dean of Residence Nick Hatt says there are “a few confirmed cases [of H1N1] among our student body.” With many of the kitchen staff at the university’s Prince Hall out sick, Sodexo has implemented its protocol for dealing with a pandemic that is spread from person to person. 

Junior don Caleigh Davis, says, “They’ve got their hairnets and there is Purell everywhere. I’m just waiting for them to break out hazmat suits.”

The idea is to prevent it from going that far. Sodexo staff moved all of the self-serve food kiosks, such as the deli-bar, and soup and ice-cream stations, inside the kitchen where kitchen staff wearing gloves handed out food.

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Sign inside the entrance to King's cafeteria. (Photo: Laura Hochman)

Sodexo account director Celine Beland, says the first night was a "disaster."  The lineup to get a piece of bread was half an hour long. It wasn’t long after that the deli-bar and soup station was moved back out into the dining hall.

“The soup, salad, and deli bars have sneeze guards,” explains Beland. “The tongs and handles are sanitized a lot throughout the meal by our staff. The soup is kept at 170 degrees, which kills all bacteria. It is our responsibility as a food service to protect staff and students and self-serve is more dangerous.”

This is why other staff is helping to hand out bread, condiments and cutlery – the ice-cream stand is still shut down.

Hatt sent around an email to all his residence dons last week outlining dinner shifts for the dons to volunteer for. However, according to email messages circulated within the residence community the dons felt it was inappropriate to help out in the kitchen, that it took them out of the role they’re suppose to be fulfilling. After a flurry of emails, the dons were released from their duty and three students were hired for kitchen duty instead.

Student Geoff Boehmer mans the bread/condiment station and says he thinks the actions of Sodexo are reasonable.

“The flu has spread really fast and this is a good way of preventing it from getting out of control.” He also said he gets paid $10/hr and isn’t complaining.

The maintenance staff is on breakfast and lunch duty. Asked how he feels about maintenance helping in the kitchen, Eldon Colley says, “We were asked, not told, to help out.”

“We dedicate two hours a day to it,” says Kyle Colp, another maintenance worker. “It’s a good idea if we can help prevent the spread of the virus.” 

What other area universities are doing to combat and prevent the spread of H1N1

Mount Saint Vincent University

If it can be covered, MSVU food services has found a way. 

Trays and plates are upside-down, baked goods are sheathed in plastic, straws are wrapped in paper and personal containers of jam and butter are being given out to combat the spread of H1N1.  They have placed hand sanitizer at all food stations, as well as entrances and exits.  Food services director Tanya Lorimer-Charles says that protocol has been put in place for staff to sanitize counters and levers at public use stations at least once per hour. 

Saint Mary’s University

SMU has taken a slightly different approach. 

Joe Makary, director of food services, says they are “trying to keep business as usual.. 

Instead of removing the many hot and cold self-serve options at SMU’s residence cafeteria, they are encouraging students who are sick not to enter the cafeteria space.  They have relaxed their policy on meal cards to allow residence assistants and healthy students to pick up food for their ailing friends. 

He says students are aware of the risks and have acted responsibly and that there have been few cases of H1N1 at SMU. 

Dalhousie University

Derrick Hines, food service director for Dalhousie residence, says that H1N1 prevention is centralized though Dalhousie’s student community services.  A representative was unavailable to comment by press time. 

Cindy MacDonald, who runs Sodexo food services for Dalhousie’s student union building, says they are continuing to follow guidelines from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.  Food is wrapped and kept behind glass or counters.  Other than additional hand sanitizer, she says there have been no additional measures or costs.

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