A glowing email notification cuts through the evening darkness in Barnes Campbell Hall, lighting up the quarantine dorm for every student inside. Opening the email reveals a meal survey from the WKU Restaurant Group, warning students that their meal orders for the next day must be submitted early the next morning.
First, students enter their name and WKU ID. They answer that they’re located in Barnes, enter their room number and then they’re free to select breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The survey is divided into three subsections, every one beginning with the option to accept or refuse to place an order for that meal. Students then choose from a drop-down menu of breakfast, lunch or dinner options, then select the drink that they’d like to be delivered with the meal.
Sam Padgett, an exercise science sophomore from Louisville, said that his meal survey was sent to him in an email every evening around 9 p.m.
The survey offers several options for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Padgett said, and the meals were delivered to him around 8:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.
“With breakfast, the only edible things that they’d have were pancakes, and you pray that they’re not cold,” Padgett said. “Lunch, I usually would eat a salad just because there really wasn’t anything else that was quite good. Dinner, I’d have chicken fingers. The sides, normally, would be fries. I did not get a fry that entire week that wasn’t cold.”
Padgett had no doubts about the proper preparation of the food but most of his concerns were with the time that the food had been sitting.
“It looked like, tasted like it had been sitting out for a long time, and just, it probably takes a while for them to trans- port all those meals,” Padgett said. “I understand that, but like, there’s got to be a way they can put some insulation … around the food, so that it doesn’t just automatically get cold that fast because it ruins the quality of it.”
Broadcasting freshman from Louisville Chris Willis said that students are given six or seven meal options to choose from in the meal survey.
“It was pretty good food,” Willis said. “They had like Papa John’s and stuff, but it just wasn’t — when you got food from … Fresh, it just wasn’t hot, so it was kind of disappointing.”
Sharon Hunter, WKU Housing and Residence Life’s assistant director of data analysis and research, said in an email that HRL has continued to make changes to the meal delivery process as the semester goes on.
“Our most impactful changes have been a partnership with Aramark Catering to change the containers for each meal and use a heated cart to deliver the meals to Barnes Campbell,” Hunter said in an email. “This permitted us to short- en the meal delivery time from an hour to under 15 minutes while providing hotter food for our residents. HRL was also able to install coolers of water and micro- waves in central areas on floors in Barnes Campbell after new guidance came out from the CDC that transmission risk was low on shared contact surfaces.”
At the beginning of the semester, meals would be brought in and left on the designated floor, and because there is no direct distribution of meals, if a student was to not pick up their meal, it would be cold, Vice President of Enrollment and Student Experience Ethan Logan said.
“People were upset about when their meals were delivered and whether or not they were cold,” Logan said. “That’s where we put in warming cabinets, so we keep food warm for a period of time after delivery.” Once the order comes through, WKU Restaurant Group prepares it and places it in a hot box to keep it warm as it is transported from DSU to Barnes.
“WKU RG places the ordered food in a hot box to keep the food warm during transport,” a WKU Restaurant Group representative said in an email. “We load the hot box on one of our trucks at DSU and deliver to the back door of Barnes Campbell Hall. A representative from the Housing department then distributes the food to the correct student.”
Within 30 minutes of preparation, the food is delivered to the student, the representative said. This short time span is accredited to delivering food only to Barnes. “Previously WKU RG was delivering meals to quarantine students at Hilltopper Hall, Bates Runner and Minton,” the representative stated in an email. “We are currently only delivering meals to Barnes Campbell Hall.”
When students receive the meal survey, they are given options from Redzone, the Downing Student Union Papa John’s and Fresh Food Company. If students do not fill out the meal survey, they receive pre-selected meals, the representative said.
“Should a student forget to order their meals for a day, we have preset meal options that we can send them,” the representative stated. “Should these menu options not fit with a students’ dietary restrictions or needs we do modify the meals to accommodate as needed.”
The preset breakfast is a muffin, a breakfast bar, fresh cut fruit and a beverage. The preset lunch is a turkey-spinach wrap with chips, whole fruit, cookies and a beverage. Dinner is preset to be either spaghetti and meatballs or chicken alfredo, and both of these options are then served with a breadstick, cookies, the vegetable of the day and a beverage.
Sophomore paralegal studies major from Bowling Green River Carter said that there was a meal survey sent out every evening, yet some problems followed.
“Sometimes what you ordered wouldn’t show up, it’d just be, like, random stuff,” Carter said. “Sometimes they didn’t even send you the survey. You just have these, like, automatic meals, and they took money out of my meal plan dollars for that. I don’t know why they took, like, 40 bucks out of that.”
Logan said that students purchase their quarantine meals with their meal plan as they would on campus.
“It’s based on your meal plan, also,” Willis said. “So you have to just go with whatever meal plan you got — that’s how your food would come.”
On the weekends, Carter only received lunch and dinner. When food was delivered to her, she often had her mother bring her food.
“I usually had my mom or someone bring me food because it was just not edible,” Carter said.
The only snacks that Padgett ordered or received were brought to him by his mom. “I know for a fact that my mom brought me some snacks,” Padgett said. “Me and my roommate also ordered a pizza one of the nights. It’s just a matter of money, honestly.”
David Oliver, director of Environmental Health and Safety, said there are a variety of other items that students can order from POD to be delivered.
“There’s other items they can order, you know, just a variety of things that they can order for like the POD store and stuff and have those delivered as well,” Oliver said.
According to Logan, the staff began to give each student a case of water when they were checked in following concerns of not having anything to drink. Aramark also put in an ice cream chest recently, Logan said.
“It’s evolving,” Logan said.
However, it is still unclear how students without meal plans are to receive quarantine meals.
“I will do everything that I can to make sure that student is fed in quarantine,” Logan said. “So, if they have the dollars, perfect. If not, we figure out a way.”
The Restaurant Group has begun providing students a welcome bag upon arrival to Barnes that includes chips, mints, a candy bar, Skittles, granola bars, tissues and bottled water. Refrigerators with bottled water and Pop-tarts have also been installed on three floors of Barnes, and ice cream is available on the first floor.
Currently, the Restaurant Group has no plans to extend meal delivery beyond students that are quarantined in designated on-campus housing.
Community Page Editor Julianna Lowe can be reached at [email protected] Follow Julianna on Twitter at @juliannamlowe.