Four female students stand in a dorm kitchen with a plate of homemade tortillas

‘Hillsdining’: How to Make the Most of Mealtimes During COVID-19

Written by Jenny Wiland

With all the changes brought about by COVID-19, certain constants remain: college students need food, and they need a place to eat it. Though we can’t cram hundreds of students into the dining hall right now, Bon Appétit, Hillsdale’s catering service, has come up with new ways to keep us all fed—most importantly, by adding takeout options. It’s hard to go anywhere without seeing students carrying to-go boxes from the cafeteria, where food is now served in disposable dishes, or white plastic bags filled with prepackaged meals from the “grab-and-go” stations around campus. Thanks to Bon Appétit’s dedication, you can take your food pretty much anywhere. And our creative students have come up with plenty of ways to keep our mealtime community thriving. So, with the whole campus at your fingertips, where should you eat?

The dining hall has always been a great setting for students from all over campus to come together and enjoy one another’s company. Now that it’s at a lower capacity, some students have taken it upon themselves to bring that community outside the dining hall. With “Dinner at the Dorms,” a different dorm each week hosts a dinner on their lawn. After getting food from their location of choice, students walk over to that week’s host dorm, spread out picnic blankets on the grass, and chat with folks from all different dorms as they enjoy their meals. Check the posters around the Union to see which dorms are hosting each week.

Eating In
There’s nothing like the good old-fashioned Knorr Family Dining Room, better known as SAGA. Claim a table or a booth, and enjoy the chit-chat of students from all over campus as they take a break to enjoy their food. As an added bonus, you can go back for seconds as many times as you want. If you’re bored of the dining hall but still want a social scene, check out the dining area in the Knorr Center’s Old Snack Bar. There’s a station in the back where you can get sandwiches, salads, and sides before sitting down at one of the tables or booths. (Pro tip: The lines often move more quickly there, too.) A.J.’s Cafe also has meal options and its own seating.

Some days, it can be nice to go somewhere a bit quieter to relax or get some work done. That’s when you can toss your lunch in a bag and sneak off to the library or an empty classroom. Eat your sandwich in peace with the companionship of your homework or a good book.

Eating Out
What’s a college town without a steady supply of off-campus food? Around the lunch and dinner hours, plenty of students stroll across campus with the telltale brown paper bag from Handmade, a shop down the road where you can get sandwiches, appetizers, and even ice cream. And if you want to save some money, it’s easy to pool funds with your friends and order a pizza or five from Cottage Inn or Hungry Howie’s.

Eating Outside
Thanks to takeout, you don’t have to leave campus to mix up your lunch routine. What better way to enjoy the last few sunny days of fall than to bring your meals outside? The quad offers plenty of space for students to eat on the grass—though it may be wise to bring a blanket, just in case it gets wet. There’s also a big tent outside the Knorr Student Center with tables and chairs. There are even more tables set up outside the Old Snack Bar. Nearby, the steps of the chapel teem with clusters of students, while others sit by the fountain. If you’d like to take a bit of a walk, head over to Slayton Arboretum and enjoy the gazebo and waterfall. There are few things more lovely than a sunny day in Michigan, so enjoy the weather whenever you can.

Dining In Your Dorm
With all the busyness of college, it can be good to take some time away from the crowd. So next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, take your food and enjoy it in the peace and quiet of your room. Or, if you’d like, grab some friends to cook a homemade meal in the dorm kitchens. My favorite meals this year have been when my friends and I take a break from studying, chip in a few bucks for ingredients, and make our own tortillas or chili.

COVID has closed a lot of doors, but when it comes to food, our dedicated staff has given us the opportunity to eat almost anywhere on campus. And our students have risen to the occasion and come up with all kinds of creative possibilities. So whether you want to hang out with your friends or simply relax and enjoy your meal, consider eating somewhere new. Your options are wide open.

Headshot of student Jenny WilandJenny Wiland, ’23, plans to study psychology and graphic design. She loves her cat, dark chocolate, and writing stories, especially science fiction and fantasy.

Published in November 2020