Branson implements new lunch procedures

Reese Dahlgren

With Branson’s campus reopening, students and faculty are following new lunch protocols to ensure their safety and health during these uncertain times.  

The updated regulations divide students into cohorts based on the class they are in before lunch. Each cohort has a specific location on campus where lunches are distributed and students go to enjoy their meals. 

“We wanted to make the system very simple to minimize the number of things that could go wrong,” Director of Technology and Safety Justin Culley said about the process of creating the new protocols. “It wasn’t hard to identify that we would repurpose the outdoor teaching locations for lunch locations.”

An online ordering system was implemented for students and faculty to request their lunch items ahead of time. Weekly emails notify the community of the lunch options for the following week, and students can choose their desired lunches for the week, including different dietary options, portion sizes and drink preferences through an accompanied survey. However, students will not receive a personalized lunch if they forget to input their order through the survey. 

Culley said that the system revolves around the end-user remembering to order beforehand and doing it correctly. “We rely on each individual’s personal responsibility to make this experiment at Branson work.”

Instead of the typical buffet-style dining, lunches now come in pre-packaged plastic containers labeled with the student’s name and cohort number. 

Executive Chef Marcus Trigg said that although the boxed lunches take longer to prepare and open pasta and salad bars can no longer be a part of the lunch system, the menu itself still holds well, especially with the organized labeling system that helps his team know what food goes where.  

Cici Dedyo, a junior in Cohort 20, said that she has enjoyed the lunches so far, but the cohort system makes it difficult to socialize with friends during lunch. 

“They’ve picked meals that work well in the boxes, and I like the pre-ordering system because I can pick what I want and know what lunch I’m going to get,” Dedyo said. “But it’s weird not being able to meet up with my friends and not have lunch with everyone.” 

Before the outdoor lunch system, students ate in the Commons, which was previously a gathering space for the community to interact with each other. However, the lack of cleanliness repeatedly concerned faculty members, especially due to the messy tables and excessive amounts of food waste. Now, students are required to clean after themselves and make sure that the campus remains in pristine condition. 

Culley said that even though none of this is necessarily better, lunch has become less chaotic and probably produces less food waste. “A perennial problem at Branson has been handled. It wasn’t our main goal, but it was a happy accident.”