COVID-19 pandemic affects Augie’s weekend food options


Narita Lambert

Augustana Westerlin Market shelves on March 7, 2022.

When students decide what college they will be attending to continue their education, one deciding factor may be the different food options that the school offers. In general, Augustana offers a wide variety of meal options between the dining hall, the Brew by the Slough, Gus’s Snack Bar and the Westerlin C-Store.

However, on weekends, a few of these options are not available. Gus’s Snack Bar is closed on Saturdays and Sundays, while Bella Luna and Global Fusion in the dining hall are closed from Friday night through Sunday. Along with this, the Brew is only open for food and drink orders until 3 p.m. on Sundays.

Director of Food Services Fred Kurt believes that having fewer options on the weekends benefits the students who are eating the food. “If we were to open up every station during the weekend, I think food quality would actually suffer,” he said. “When you have high traffic, you go through lots of products and the pizza, pasta or sauces get changed more frequently, so you have fresher food.”

Augustana students commonly complain that the dining hall has a much better selection of food on visit days or on days when a big event is occurring. “Our main goal is that when we have an increase of three to five hundred extra individuals, we don’t want to inconvenience people by having long lines,” Kurt said.

Although stations such as Bella Luna and Global Fusion are not open on the weekend except on visit days, this is not out of lack of consideration for students. “Our main goal is to alleviate any lines and inconveniences to current students and guests,” Kurt said. 

Having more stations open on days when there are large events on campus allows for both students and visitors alike to get food in a timely manner in order to get to where they need to be. If the dining hall were to have only a few stations open on days such as these, it would cause problems for everyone. 

While the majority of students with meal plans still utilize the dining services on campus over the weekends, a good percentage do not. “Only 60 percent of students that are utilizing dining services are on campus [during the weekends] because they’re going home or traveling with their athletic teams,” Kurt said.

When fewer students on campus utilize the dining services, fewer options are available. Due to budget and staffing constraints, it is not possible for all food options to be open over the weekend.

A student favorite, Gus’s Snack Bar, is only open from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. “There is no traffic in Brunner in the afternoon throughout the evening,” Kurt said. When this is the case in an area such as Brunner, having food available can be more of a negative than a positive, as it requires staff to be present and risks food being wasted. 

Unlike Gus’s Snack Bar and the dining hall, the Westerlin C-Store has one of the highest demands on the weekend. Since the largest restock happens on Wednesdays, the food supply on the weekends can be insufficient. Senior Lauryn Tassel, C-Store student supervisor, believes that this may be because of supply chain issues.

“Because of COVID, we have been short by at least every order on candy, drinks, everything,” she said. “We get our main stock Wednesday and we try to over-order so that it lasts throughout the week.”

The COVID-19 pandemic in general has put a strain on a variety of supply chains across the world. Because Augustana shares a supply line with a few other locations, certain items can be hard to come by. Oftentimes, substitutions can be necessary to be able prepare the same foods.

“When we utilize substitution products, we don’t know if it is going to be an exact substitute because it can be a different manufacturer coming in,” Kurt said. “There have been some occasions where we put ingredients in recipes, and our expectations are different from what we are used to.”

Despite efforts on Augustana’s part to order enough food to last until the next restock, supply issues can make this impossible. 

“I would definitely say Tuesday, but sometimes Sunday and Monday are bad too,” Tassel said. “It depends on how busy we are during the week.”

When students come to the C-Store expecting to find better options for their weekend meals, bare shelves can be a disappointment and an inconvenience. Since restock occurs every Wednesday, Sunday through Tuesday often finds the c-store with sparse options. 

“Most food [from the C-Store] is consumed during the weekend, because the dining hall has a lot of their options shut down,” Tassel said. “People come to the C-Store because they think they can get better options.”

While the C-Store often runs out of certain fresh and frozen items as it nears Wednesday, prepackaged and Grab-and-Go items are pretty consistent across the board. “We get the Grab-and-Go every day but Saturday,” Tassel said. Grab-and-Go items include fresh sandwiches, salads, fruits and yogurts that are similar to those that can be found in the Brew.

Augustana’s many food options give students a decent ability to choose what they want to eat for each meal of the day. Although shortages and limited options can be common on the weekends, having both the C-Store and the dining hall allows the majority of students to get the food that they need, as long as they go during operating hours.