The Food Services Worker
COVID on Campus: The Food Services Worker
Wearing masks and staying six feet apart is a really valid expectation, but not if you’ve ever been to Dunkin’ during rush hour. It’s definitely at least an every-other shift occurrence that someone will lower their mask to order, putting myself and other employees at risk.
I’ve been working at Kimmel Food Court on campus since the start of the semester in August. I work every single morning except for Tuesdays and Thursdays and I’m usually stationed at the Dunkin’, because it’s the only thing open at that time. I work at the counter and sometimes the register, too.
Coming to campus this year, I was already nervous to do pretty much anything in person because of COVID-19. People need to eat, though, and I’m glad to service them even if it’s more dangerous for me than just staying home. I was definitely skeptical about how Syracuse was going to handle everything. With what the university’s standards are with COVID-19 protocols though, I don’t feel like I’m at risk while I’m at work for the day.
Every morning I take my temperature when I punch in at Kimmel. There is a station that shows workers what a normal temperature looks like, to make sure no one is feverish. At the same station, there is a box of disposable masks and I always change mine as soon as my shift starts.
I will say, I am one of the more cautious people who work at Kimmel. I know workers who come into work without wearing a mask, don’t bother to check their temperatures because they feel fine, and who don’t change their masks every shift, like I do.
There are illustrations everywhere about the do’s and don’ts of wearing your mask and instructions on how to wash your hands, but there is no supervision. There’s not even a spot on the signup sheet to write your temperature or anything, which kind of shocked me. In my job training, there was also nothing specific about COVID-19, besides you know, calling out if you feel sick. There wasn’t anything covered about like reminding patrons to keep their masks up or not directly touching their hands or anything.
It’s just my own caution and my own feelings about COVID-19 that keep me really aware during my shifts and I try to be as cautious as possible. With that being said, I would be okay with ordering from Kimmel and eating my food, like usual, knowing what happens behind the scenes.
There are also plexiglass walls at every food station and at the registers too, which makes me feel safer during my shifts. The plexiglass along with the masks can make it really difficult to hear customers’ orders, though. Then, they’ll often pull down their masks or we will have to ask for repetition, holding up the whole line. This can get frustrating, especially since the Kimmel Dunkin’ is the busiest Dunkin’ in Onondaga County, from what I’ve heard. Usually, there is a line out the door from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. because it’s like, you know, the only place to get coffee on campus.
When it gets very busy, I have to remind students to keep their masks on and follow COVID-19 safety precautions. They usually roll their eyes but eventually comply. It hasn’t been Food Services workers who have spread the virus, students who don’t care are the reason things are falling apart. I have very little patience for people who pull that stuff.
I work with many union workers who are middle-aged and elderly. One of them is retiring soon. I know it can be scary for them to be exposed to so many students and I feel like I have a duty to keep them safe too. I will continue to try to keep myself and the ladies I work out of risk and I feel comfortable calling people out to do so.
I’m the one serving you your macchiato, after all.
This as-told-to interview is part of COVID on Campus, a series created by students in the Reporting classes at the Newhouse School in Fall 2020. COVID on Campus documents the experiences of students, staff, and faculty living through this extraordinary time.