A pandemic has changed how we are doing many things today. One thing it hasn’t changed is how college students eat.
Eating out is a key feature of college life in America. It is no wonder why the term “college town” is associated with a city that is filled with many places to dine. When the home-cooked meals stop and the ramen noodles don’t satisfy students anymore, they turn to the over 50 different restaurants both on and off campus in College Park. “COVID can spread pretty easily,” said Steven Mehling, a junior journalism student from Warwick, NY, “[My roommates and I] base our decision of where to eat based off how popular it is with people who adhere to the rules.”
Mehling and his friends frequently visit Mission BBQ and Potomac Pizza. But if it’s gameday, they opt for take out.
According to Maryland law, restaurants must require all guests to wear masks, maintain at least six feet of distance between tables, seat no more than six people to a table and provide proper signage of health and safety guidelines. Regardless of how good, how bad or how ugly the food is, every restaurant around the College Park Campus must abide by these rules.
“In making decisions about eating out, it is absolutely important to balance safety and the need for social connections,” said Professor Kerry Green of the UMD School of Public Health, “to minimize potential exposure to waitstaff and other patrons, get take out and find a picnic table where you can still enjoy restaurant food in a safe environment.”
“[A] majority of the time I eat out with my roommates,” said Gracie Tanner, a sophomore journalism student. “Eating out with roommates is convenient for me, as I haven't been willing to see many people during the pandemic… I like being able to have a conversation or catch up with friends during meals, eating is often a social activity for me.”
Students tend to only be involved with other people in their “bubble.” A bubble refers to a short list of people someone socializes with to limit the chances of spreading any potential illness.
By far the greatest change to the restaurant scene at the University of Maryland is the dining hall. The Diner, South Campus Dining Hall, 251 North and the Outpost are only providing carry-out services this semester. Since indoor dining is no longer an option, students have made the campus their dining hall with take-out boxes for plates and cans of soda to match.
“Outdoor seating, not crowded and people practicing social distancing; these are things I look for when I go out to a restaurant. But I mainly get take-out.” said Meheer Bhalla, a sophomore information-science major,
Bhalla joins the many students who are opting to choose take-out or delivery instead of eating in a restaurant. This tidal shift in how students eat their food has made living on a big campus in a college town, with many places to eat, a godsend.