May 14, 2021 | NEWS | By Will Funk | Photo by Aida Hasson
The Colorado College administration and Bon Appetit staff are working together to find the safest way to reopen Rastall dining hall, which has been closed this past year due to the threat of COVID-19.
Rastall presents a number of risks during a pandemic school year as the most crowded dining hall on campus.
“Infectious aerosols tend to accumulate in indoor spaces, especially when people are shouting, and it can get very noisy in Rastall during lunch,” said Andrea Bruder, the head of the Scientific Advisory Group (SAG).
Working with Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines, administration and Bon Appetit staff are looking into what maximum capacity will be and what services will be provided.
“We’ll be implementing appropriate sanitation and service measures to ensure everyone can dine with us safely and comfortably,” said Shannon Wilson, General Manager for Bon Appetit. “These measures will be based on current guidance from the CDC, health and sanitation experts from our company and Colorado College Coronavirus Response Teams, and local health regulations.”
As CDC guidelines continue to change in response to a nation-wide vaccination campaign, the college will continue to update dining policies with the eventual goal of “scaling up service back to pre-COVID levels,” Wilson said.
Lori Seager, CC’s liaison to Bon Appetit, explained some of the measures discussed by Wilson in a written statement sent to The Catalyst: “The Bon Appetit team will be following the College’s protocols around vaccination requirements and will observe the COVID protocols the College has in place at that time for safety: including mask-wearing, social distancing, etc.”
News of Rastall reopening will be cause for celebration for many students. Students facing food insecurity have been forced to pay higher prices for meals at Benji’s and the Preserve for most of the year, while athletes who require larger portions than most students have been forced to settle for the portions allocated at the two available dining halls instead of the buffet provided by Rastall.
Mary Nussbaumer ’22, Vice President of Student Life for the Colorado College Student Government Association (CCSGA) heard concerns from students at a Food Advisory Committee meeting who were burdened by the lack of variety and small portion sizes that Benji’s and the Preserve had to offer.
“We came to a conclusion that other food providers (Benji’s, the Preserve, etc.) can make up for this loss by providing more options and remaining COVID safe by breaking staff into pods,” Nussbaumer said.
Recently, Benji’s and the Preserve have started increasing portion sizes and providing more variety, yet many students on campus have had to contend with the regular portions and variety offered by the two halls.
“It has been extremely difficult to have our food options reduced to expos at Benji’s and the Preserve, but I do not think this is unique to just the student-athlete population,” said SAG member and varsity swimmer Key Macfarland ’22. “The difference is the limited options to fuel our bodies after incredibly strenuous workouts where we are asked to give everything we have. We cannot give as much if we cannot find food options to get us through those practices.”
For student-athletes like Macfarland, maintaining a healthy and nutritious diet while in season has been incredibly difficult this year. For students, especially student-athletes, who can’t afford outside meals or manage with the portions provided by the only two available dining halls, this year has created a degree of inequity in dining that has yet to be addressed.
The Food Pantry, CC’s organization that helps create more equity in dining, has voiced significant concern over the closing of Rastall by working with CCSGA to argue for keeping Rastall open.
“The Food Pantry will continue next year, with sponsorship from CCSGA, the Office of Campus Activities, and the Crowdfunding Campaign which raised $24,000, regardless of Rastall or Bon Appetit operations,” said Amy Hill, the head of the Food Pantry. “We recognize that food security is an issue on campus and has been an unaddressed need before and in light of the global pandemic.”
For first-year students, not having dining halls, such as Rastall, to congregate and socialize has made this year particularly difficult.
Emma Logan ’24 reached out to The Catalyst with a statement regarding the inability for first-years to socialize as classes have done in the past: “You kind of need to gather your friends and walk to food together, and then most of the time you head back to a dorm building. Although meals are still social, I haven’t been able to meet new people while eating or just casually sit at a table of people from my class. Also, there is no indoor option, so when it gets too cold to eat outside everyone just gets sort of isolated.”
Coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is obvious that Rastall is not just a dining hall but a staple of our CC community. For many it is a place to eat affordably and nutritiously after a long day of schoolwork and athletics.
For others, Rastall is a place where students can wind down with their group of friends, meet new friends, and talk about whatever comes to mind through the stress and anxiety of the Block Plan.
Although next year will not be the same Rastall that many of us have come to know and love, the CC community will welcome the return to Rastall as a return to some sense of normalcy and community.
“At Rastall, we laugh, we commiserate, and we bond during those meals. I am hopeful and excited that next year Rastall will open up again so that we can bond as a community again,” Macfarland said.