While the University of Maine has been dealing with COVID-19 restrictions for over two years now, and many students may be sick of them, these restrictions are necessary for the future health and safety of all on-campus.
If a student that lives on campus tests positive for COVID-19 there is no place for them to go and they will have no choice but to go to the dining hall and sit and eat around everyone else. Students are allowed only six to-go vouchers each semester where they can take their meal with them outside of the dining hall.
If you don’t feel well the last thing you want to do is sit around a bunch of people and eat. This may force many students to skip meals in a time where getting nutrients into your body is more important than ever.
Six vouchers only cover two full days of food if you’re eating three meals a day. The CDC recommends five days of quarantine. If you’re sick with COVID-19, your only option, if you use up all of those vouchers in your first two days, is to stay on campus and eat in the dining hall throughout a period when you’re supposed to be in isolation or starve.
UMaine dining does offer something called Get Well Meals. However, similar to the to-go vouchers, it does not make sense in terms of COVID-19. The Get Well Meals only allow a student to sign–up for three meals and you must have a representative willing to pick up and deliver your food, which many students might not have.
I understand that the university assumes that when they allow students to take their food to-go they will be losing money because students will take advantage of it. Of course, there are always a handful of students who will take advantage of anything. But thinking in terms of COVID-19 and sickness, if a student is ill and does not want to sit around anyone or spread their illness to more people they should be allowed to eat in their room.
But broader than COVID-19, it’s important to a student’s overall well being, both mental and physical, to be eating three meals a day. By allowing students to take their meals to go it will make getting a meal more accessible to more students. It will be easier for them to eat breakfast before a morning class or lunch in between two afternoon classes.
College is difficult, and maintaining good health is hard when you’re in a new environment. Students often will have at least one week where they feel socially drained, tired and need time to be alone. Going to a dining hall and eating with a bunch of other people does not help with this. The university should not force students to choose eating three times a day over other students’ health.
Oct. 2, 2022 Correction: Unlimited meal plans allow ten to go meals instead of six, only three days are fully covered by the two-go meals.