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Students get a new taste of Shaw

Upon entering Shaw Student Center, the atmosphere is starkly different from the 2020–22 academic years when COVID-19 safety measures limited dining options, according to Bon Appétit General Manager Tony DiRaddo. 

“There were so many ups and downs with COVID-19 and closures, and masking and touch, no-touch,” DiRaddo said. “We thought if we could go through one more year and get out of that, we would bring everything back this year.”

The return of the salad bar and global foods line, along with the construction of a new food display case, mark a transition out of the pandemic and bring “a new look” to Shaw, according to DiRaddo.

“We just felt like there needed to be some changes,” DiRaddo said. “We worked through some ideas of how we could make things look different for the students to come in[to].” 

The scene is new to sophomores and juniors, who never experienced pre-pandemic campus dining. Kelsey Smith, a third-year international relations custom major, said her experience with the changes at Shaw has been positive. 

Nikki Hardinger, director of dining services, rings up a student at Shaw Student Center on Sept. 6. When there are waves of people waiting to be served, Hardinger said, “It’s stressful […] if you’re working a line and you look down, and there’s nobody and then you look up and there’s 25 plus people, but you just do it.” Photo courtesy of Zidia Gibson. Image description: A woman with tattoos stands at a register while checking out a line of students in the cafeteria.

“I love the salad bar,” Smith said. “There seems to be a lot more options, especially for exploring veganism and vegetarianism. Before it was like, only the grill, and after three years [that’s] a little dull to me.”

Smith said she’s more inclined to go to Shaw because of the variety now offered.

“I feel like I’m selling Shaw too much, but it’s all real,” Smith said. “[…] Shaw was already a higher quality of food for a college campus, and it’s just been elevated this year.”

Seniors are the only class currently in attendance who got a taste for Shaw at its full potential — albeit for only a semester before lockdown began in March 2020. 

“Going into Shaw with the changes now is new and surprising, [and] there’s something to look forward to each day,” said senior computer science major Eden Dronoff. “For a while, I felt like Shaw looked the same.”

Dronoff said she has a gluten-free sensitivity and said the available gluten-free options are reassuring.

Nessa Kirpatrick, a sophomore nursing major, fills their bowl with lettuce from the salad bar at Shaw Student Center on Sept. 6. “We didn’t take [the salad bar and global foods line] away because we had to, we took it away because of the pandemic,” said Director of Dining Services Nikki Hardinger. “So once things settled down and the school went back to being somewhat normal, that’s when we’re able to bring everything back.” Photo courtesy of Zidia Gibson. Image description: A woman with pink hair stands and fills her bowl with salad ingredients.

“The gluten-free section, while still limited, is nice to see,” Dronoff said. “I’ve also noticed Bon Appétit is using the gluten-free symbol more often than in previous years, and that makes me feel a sense of comfort knowing that I have less of a chance of getting sick.”

Shaw’s revamp process began with hiring new staff in June and continued through New Student Orientation on Aug. 21, where Bon Appétit gathered information on students’ dietary restrictions through surveying, according to DiRaddo.

“We basically told [students] that any time during the school year, if they came up with anything they needed specifically, to let us know,” DiRaddo said.

Bon Appétit has received a lot of compliments from students so far, according to DiRaddo.

“I’ve seen an increase in participation, but that’s because there was an increase in enrollment, too, but just overall the satisfaction seems to be […] pretty high right now,” DiRaddo said.

DiRaddo also said he noticed a difference in the students who visit Shaw this year, something Nikki Hardinger, director of dining services, agrees with.

These are like, the nicest [first-years] I think we’ve ever had on campus,” Hardinger said. “I think a lot of it, too, is because all these kids were in high school when the pandemic hit, and now they’re starting college and it’s a whole new world for them.”

DiRaddo said one of his goals this year is for students to enjoy what Bon Appétit has to offer.

“My hope is that [students are] going to come and talk with us, […] and that we’re going to stay on top of making sure we’re offering different things so there’s not a repetition [of options],” DiRaddo said. “I think we’re on a good track for that.” 

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Zidia Gibson is a junior communication major and a film studies minor with a love for telling stories. She is proud to be the coordinator for the Asian American and Pacific Islander Life program on campus and to write for The Honorable Mention. She loves petting any cat she sees, hiking the valley and rock climbing with friends, playing video games, and visiting local coffee shops every other day

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