With the onset of CA’s STAC 2 pilot program, the Stu-Fac resumed in-person operations. New restrictions and guidelines regarding dining were implemented due to the ongoing pandemic, and in response to those drastic changes, the Stu-Fac adapted flexibly and managed to maintain its commitment to CA’s mission statement. Sustainability remains as one of the staff’s main concerns, with safety undoubtedly being the absolute priority. 

Sodexo Stu-Fac Meal Containers
Courtesy of Concord Academy Dining

One major change was the means by which food is delivered. All meals, previously served on plates, are given to students in disposable packages. For now, the Stu-Fac uses roughly eight kinds of containers for to-go food, including both compostable and recyclable lunch boxes, and compostable salad containers and cups. All containers will be compostable after January, when CA initiates its second stage of reopening, hopefully with improved facilities and guidelines. Other packaging materials, such as eating utensils (plastic forks, spoons, and straws) and wax wrappers for fruits, are not compostable. This highly sustainable plan entails a costly budget, as compostable containers are significantly more expensive than other types of disposables. Yet the Stu-Fac managers and staff are well-aware of CA’s mission, “to build a more just and sustainable future”. With much planning and adapting, the dining hall has managed to run smoothly under the pressure of the pandemic. 

Changes were also implemented within the workspace of the Stu-Fac. Following the new rules, the kitchen staff split into two teams, working on different sets of days to ensure safe practices. That also means many of them cannot get to see one other in person. Shawna Penders, the manager of the Stu-Fac, said that the staff members now do daily calls to build their connections. In order to overcome the hardships that come with social distancing in a compact workspace, the staff members divided the kitchen into certain stations, and they have to constantly maximize their efficiency to accommodate the changing situation. 

Regardless of the various demanding challenges confronted by the Stu-Fac, the quality of the food remains superb. Due to safety concerns, panini presses, stir-fry machines and the toaster have to be removed, and certain types of food can no longer be served, but a wide variety of dishes is still available for piloting students. Food in the morning not only includes the usual hot breakfast combo—potatoes, scrambled eggs, pancakes or waffles, yogurt and fruits—but also extends to personalized options like avocados and toasted bagels. Lunch was initially adjusted to only serve cold sandwiches, but is now gradually adding hot food back to the menu. Dinner, which along with breakfast are exclusive to boarding piloteers, maintains its popular main dishes. Some examples include General Tso Chicken, pork chop, and Beef Bulgogi. 

The amount of efforts the Stu-Fac staff have put into students’ lunch boxes is truly incredible. As some of us cherish the opportunity to be back in person, let us not forget what sustains our joy in this challenging time.