Here’s how students feel about dining options in Duke’s COVID-19 quarantine facilities
Here’s how students feel about dining options in Duke’s COVID-19 quarantine facilities

Here’s how students feel about dining options in Duke’s COVID-19 quarantine facilities

The quality of the food in Duke’s quarantine homes has become a point of contention among students.

The university offers food and snacks to students who have been quarantined after testing positive for COVID-19. Those in quarantine have several places to stay, including Lancaster Commons Apartments and Lodge Annex Hotel.

Robert Coffey, CEO of Dining Services, facilitated a partnership with The Picnic Basket Catering to provide food for students, purchasing food from several different local venues ranging from Duke Dining Hall restaurants or local chains like Chick-fil-a.

“The goal was to ensure that students in temporary housing never had to worry about food, including meeting any dietary or allergy needs,” Assistant Dean of Students David Frankel wrote in an email, citing a statement from Coffey.

Despite the range of options, however, some students were disappointed with the portion size of the starters, which were often boxes left overcrowded and small portions.

“[The small portions] forced you to snack a little more, ”said sophomore Ben Perry. “You do not get the best macros.”

Students appreciated an unlimited snack bar that was delivered along with their main meals.

The choices for the snack bar were generally nutritious – probiotic water, Greek yogurt, low-calorie chips and more. But having to give up an entire meal to get a more processed alternative made them in quarantine feel dissatisfied.

“I had to eat really non-nutritious snacks to supplement the small portions they gave us,” said junior Thomas Ross after being released from quarantine in the Lancaster Commons.

However, the unlimited snacks were not always reliable. Ross said there was a period in the Lancaster Commons where there was no water available for students.

“They had Powerade and vitamin water and stuff like that,” he said. “But you know, it’s just stuffed with sugar. There was just no water.”

After several hours of waiting without a proper alternative, Ross received a refill of water later that day.

The picnic basket worked tirelessly to support the students, especially during the overflow of quarantined students after an initial increase in cases due to the Omicron variant.

“Their team has been working every day all year, even during vacations and severe weather, to support Duke students,” Frankel wrote on behalf of Coffey.

Unlike Ross and Perry, some quarantined students felt that the food service was adequate.

“It was definitely enough because there was a lot of extras,” said freshman Teddy Hur. “You can just take more things. It was not bad at all.”

Extra meals provided by the catering staff are usually left to new quarantined newcomers who are unable to order meals prior to arrival. These meals were often also ingested by those who were already in quarantine to either increase their portion sizes or avoid paying for their food.

Hur stayed in a temporarily overcrowded hotel during his quarantine, and he felt that the students had no restriction on access to substantial main courses. He was not informed about the meal policies and payment for his food.

Ross and Perry believe Duke could implement alternative quarantine food distribution plans. For example, Perry said that Duke could more efficiently serve food to its quarantined students by varying portion sizes based on what the students requested.

“It’s hard, from their perspective, to determine the right portion size,” Perry said. “The choice is to prepare meals in such a way that you can vary the portion size depending on the consumer or take the second option and just give all the people in the hotel a lot of snacks.”

But Perry sympathizes with Duke’s efforts to not inadvertently create waste by providing a true surplus of food.

“[Duke] did a decent job of supplementing [the meals] eventually, ”Perry said. “I think they found the right middle ground.”

James Cruikshank

James Cruikshank is a Trinity freshman and a staff reporter for the news department.

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