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A Web Letter from the Office of the Provost - February 2021

By Mary Jane Chew

Did you know: Purdue Dining and Culinary

In our Focus on Staff section, we are highlighting the people and units at Purdue that are inspiring our next giant leap.

This month’s focus is on Purdue Dining & Culinary. We talked with Cara Powell, director of Dining, Business Systems and Culinary.

Q: How long have you been in your position?

A: I joined the Purdue Dining & Culinary team in January of 2001 and I have been the director of Dining, Business Systems and Culinary since May 2020. During those 19 years in Purdue Dining & Culinary, I have been an assistant food supervisor, dining court supervisor, production chef,  dining court manager, Residential Dining multi-unit manager, assistant director-Residential Dining, and assistant director-Culinary.

Q: What units and how many employees make up your division?

A: Purdue Dining & Culinary's five dining courts (Ford, Wiley, Windsor, Earhart and Hillenbrand), six On-The-Go locations (Ford, Windsor, Earhart, Lily, Knoy and Lawson), and four Quick Bite (All American Dining Room, Pete's Za, 1Bowl and Sushi Boss), Central Production and Strategic Sourcing, and Catering.  We have 235 dedicated employees who have responded to meet the challenges of this past year.

Q: What was the first priority/challenge for your team when the pandemic began to affect Purdue?

A: Purdue Dining & Culinary had to switch from an all you care to eat self-service model to a carry-out served model while working to make sure we adhere to social distance and other health and safety guidelines. At the same time, we want students to have options with nutritious and high-quality food.

To accomplish this new service model and keep the students and staff safe, we implemented the following:

  • Safety protocols for both students and staff.
  • Reduced points of service from 36 to 4.
  • No indoor seating.
  • Forward-facing and socially distanced lines.
  • Floor markers for line labeling, social distance expectations and traffic flow (one-way).
  • Separate entrance and exits.
  • Additional cleaning.
  • Addition of Transact mobile order and pick up in select Quick Bite and On-the-Go locations.

Q: What has your team learned from fall semester that is helping this spring?

A: We have learned how to think outside of the box and to be fluid with last-minute changes. This semester, Purdue Dining & Culinary made some changes based on students feedback throughout the semester. We are now offering students more variety and food options in each of our five dining courts.  These changes created a new dining process and flow of the lines inside each dining location, including additional indoor line queuing to help keep the student out of the cold. We also have added single forward-facing social distanced seating in four of our dining court locations.  

Q: Dining & Culinary has been on the front lines of keeping Purdue fed, healthy and running.  Anything you’d like to share about how your staff has met the moment?

A: Our team has done a fantastic job! We could not have gotten through this past year without their dedication and flexibility. Our staff has risen to every challenge that’s been presented.     

Q: Anything else you’d like to share?

A:  I cannot thank our dining team enough!  They have been serving our students on the front lines since March and, without their hard work and dedication, we would not be able to nourish and inspire the Purdue community!

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