Several on-campus dining locations remain closed despite the University’s return to in-person operations, including popular spots such as Harvest on Cook campus and Henry’s Diner on Livingston campus.
John Cramer, director of public and media relations for the University, said Rutgers is currently prioritizing dining halls, as they serve most of the meals on campus. In addition, the University terminated most of its dining services positions due to the financial impact of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and the transition to online learning, with other employees choosing to retire.
“The number of our student staffers has dropped significantly because many previously employed students have graduated, and hiring and training new student staff will take time,” he said. “We are eager to reopen all of our dining locations and food trucks as soon as we have enough staff.”
Prior to the pandemic, Dining Services had approximately 1,700 staff members, with more than half of them being students, Cramer said. Harvest and Henry’s Diner depend on mostly student employees.
Students spoke about issues arising from several dining locations remaining closed during the fall. Serena Aolani, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said that closing certain locations can make it difficult for such students to get the food they need, especially in the winter when the weather worsens.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate to have nearby food locations closed if there is such a dense, on-campus student population,” she said. “Considering that the wintertime is nearing, that means that students will have to travel at least 15 minutes for food if they don’t have access to food in their dorms.”
Aolani also spoke about existing difficulties that make it difficult to travel in warm weather as well. She said the path from Passion Puddle to Neilson Dining Hall on Cook campus contains steep potholes that fill with water and mud, while the surrounding grass tends to get soaked.
Sanchita Patwari, a Rutgers Business School junior, said commuters have been affected the most by the continued closure of dining locations due to the dining halls requiring a flat fee of approximately $15, which some people may not want to pay if they are only having a partial meal.
Still, she said it is reasonable for certain dining locations to close as a measure of earning revenue for the main dining halls.
“The closure of certain dining options is obviously necessary for the dining hall to get revenue,” she said. “I was actually talking to an advisor, and he said that such measures are taking place because they need the dining (halls) to get populated.”
Cramer said the University has rehired many employees and is actively hiring more to return the Dining Services staff to pre-pandemic numbers so that more locations can reopen. Students interested in applying can find more information on the Dining Services website.