New COVID-19 protocols and extra dining options will ensure students get fed and stay healthy this fall

Stepping up to the plates will be different this fall, given the coronavirus pandemic. Big changes, prompted by Vermont Health Department guidelines, have prompted new mealtime schedules and the elimination of self-service at the Wise Campus Center Dining Hall ("chow"). New food options at The Mill, Dunkin’ Donuts and takeway from The Daily Grind will complement the chow hall offerings.

In an Aug. 21 Update from the Hill video, Amelia “Millie” Heidenreich, general manager of food contractor Sodexo at Norwich University, walked students through the changes, which President Mark C. Anarumo discussed a day earlier in a virtual town hall.

On their arrival dates, students visited a table outside the campus center for an ID card sticker designating their mealtimes, which were assigned through the Banner website and which correspond to students’ class schedules. (Students who didn’t get mealtimes can get them from the Cadet Cash office or by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..) In his town hall, Anarumo said students with full meal plans have access to 19 meals a week.

On Monday, The Mill and Dunkin’ Donuts began using the new Bite University app to let students order food in advance and retrieve it wait-free.

Just as car traffic followed a single route for students arriving on campus, so will mealtime foot traffic. Heidenreich said students should enter the left doors, well marked with maroon signs, then follow a trail of physically distanced maroon “stand here” floor dots to the cashier’s area. (The dots will also regulate traffic at Dunkin’ Donuts and The Mill, also in the Wise Campus Center.)

To meet health guidelines, the main dining hall will run at reduced capacity. Only 15 students will be in the lobby at once; the serving area can accommodate 65 students at once.

At the cashier’s station, students will sanitize their hands from a ready jug of cleanser, show their ID cards to identify their meal plan, then swipe the cards through an electronic card reader.

Students will collect their trays and silverware and choose a service area line; each will offer different cuisine. A sign posted at each line’s entry will list offerings, Heidenreich said; students should read the list so they can select their foods quickly.

In line, students will point out their chosen foods to servers, who will plate them and pass them toward the line’s end. Heidenreich said students will need to announce their choices loudly to be heard through their required face masks and the dining center’s ambient din. Students can ask for any size portion of food, and servers will comply.

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Students dining at the Wise Campus Center will have several lines to choose service from, each of which serves different cuisine. (Photo by Mark Collier.)

Servers will place the plates at the end of the line and step back for students to collect. Drinks come next; students should use only dining center cups, filling first with ice, then their drinks.

Although the dining center opened earlier this month with two serving stations, Heidenreich said five will be open when classes start Monday. Students who are still hungry after their first serving can get a ticket from a staff member near the tray return and go back through the serving line for seconds without having to wait in line.

In the dining room’s main level, tables with metal chairs will accommodate rooks. Main-level tables with wooden chairs and tables on the center’s upper deck will accommodate upperclassmen and civilian students. To accommodate physical distancing, the lower level can seat 265 people, Heidenreich said; the upper deck can seat 150.

To ensure student safety, Heidenreich said the dining center will follow the federal Food and Drug Administration’s Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point system, collecting data including final heating and cooling temperatures for all foods cooked. Dining hall staff will sanitize serving area surfaces every half hour using a coronavirus-killing solution. They’ll sanitize dining room surfaces, including tables and chairs, between mealtimes.

The Mill, Dunkin’ Donuts and The Grind will also offer food. On Monday, to coincide with the start of classes, The Mill, serving a menu based on previous student requests, will be open from 11 a.m. to midnight. Dunkin’ Donuts will be open 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends.

Bite University

On Monday, The Mill and Dunkin’ Donuts began using the new Bite University app to let students order food in advance and retrieve it wait-free.

A Pick Five station at The Mill will let physically distanced students choose five prepackaged foods — a drink, an entrée and three snacks to collect for grab-and-go ease.

Students whose class schedules conflict with morning dining center mealtimes can get  prebagged breakfasts at Kreitzberg Library’s Daily Grind café. From 7 to 8 a.m., students can ring The Daily Grind’s backdoor entrance bell for service; from 8 to 11 a.m., students can enter through the library’s main entrance. Food is solely for pickup; in-library eating is forbidden.

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Students eating in the Wise Dining Center Dining Hall with full meal plans have access to 19 meals per week. (Photo by Mark Collier.)

Heidenreich said a Sodexo texting program will let students, or their parents, text the on-duty dining center manager to get immediate responses to dining questions. To join, text norwichdining to 82257. The system will also offer access to promotional goodies; the day Heidenreich’s video was posted, the promotion was a half-dozen freebie Dunkin’ Munchkins.

In his town hall, Anarumo said that based on annual surveys, student satisfaction ratings for Sodexo has been climbing. The rating now stands at 76% — 15% higher than the average rating at New England colleges and higher than the previous survey.

Anarumo said that by aggressively canvassing students and professionals and working with an on-campus dining committee that includes civilian and Corps students, Norwich and Sodexo will continue to strive for optimal food service.

“We’ll keep chasing that trend up,” he said of the satisfaction rating. “Students from all lifestyles, please encourage your (dining committee) representatives to bring forward your suggestions. Sodexo has been very responsive.”

More information on Sodexo dining at Norwich University, visit https://norwich.sodexomyway.com.

(Slideshow photos by Mark Collier.)

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