by Angie Gabeau, Staff Writer, March 2021

The pandemic has changed nearly all of our school traditions and routines at Nobles, ranging from assembly, to Friday Night Lights, to Fall Fest. One of these changes that most affects our daily life is how we eat in the Castle. The kitchen and dining hall is one of the easiest places for COVID-19 to spread, so in response, Flik has made major changes. 

The biggest changes were implemented outside the kitchen. Nobles has always been adamant in their support of locally sourced and grown food, but unfortunately, the pandemic has drastically reduced Flik’s ability to do so. Matt Burek, Director of Dining Services, explained that the demand for such food has plummeted, forcing many local farms and sources to temporarily or permanently close. He said, “There are not enough sales to keep producing agriculture. Carrots, potatoes, cabbages and squashes are still being bought locally, which is a bit more difficult in New England with the weather – but will hopefully get better in the spring.” This challenge has forced Nobles to find new places for produce. Additionally, Nobles’ needs have decreased by 50%, considering that only half of the faculty and students are on campus at a time. 

Surprisingly, Burek noted how few changes needed to be made for sanitation. Even before the pandemic, the kitchen practiced protocol that included cleaning off surfaces and utensils and washing dishes and food properly. The only real change is staying six feet apart and wearing masks. That change does affect the amount of staff that can be in the kitchen at a time, but other than that, the kitchen remains the same.  

Another one of Nobles’ goals is to be more environmentally friendly; however, Burek commented on the challenge of sustainability when adhering to strict health and safety protocols. Since Flik is feeding people ranging from sixies to adults, serving sizes are difficult to gauge, which can often create food waste. Also, when students only want one component of a meal, the rest goes to waste. Flik has attempted to alleviate this problem by making more servings with less food in each. Unfortunately, that strategy creates a surplus material waste, like paper boxes and utensils. 

There have been noticeable additions to the menu as well. Upon entering the castle, students are now greeted with a display of Lays chips, Rice Krispies, and other individually packaged snacks. For Flik to make this change, Burek explained that during the pandemic, these snacks are an easier alternative to the fresh snacks they had made before. Also, with less staff, it is more difficult to serve a multitude of dishes. “Labor can take up to 55% of the budget, so it is important to pay attention to where you are putting your labor,” Burek explained. 

Additionally, the daily menu has undergone many changes. Burek said, “We have to choose quality food that will stay fresh sitting in a box – and needs to be able to fit in said box.” He also explained that having 30 minute lunch blocks instead of 50 minutes helps with this issue, because meals are grabbed faster and don’t have to stay under a heat lamp for long periods of time. To make lunch exciting, Flik is planning to experiment more with the foods they put on the menu. One of the meals mentioned was the “TikTok pasta,” which contains feta cheese and tomato, since Flik knows it will appeal to students. 

Even after we overcome the pandemic, these may be permanent changes. Burek said, “Sauces might still be served in individual containers, and we might need to be more sanitary when it comes to buffet style serving.” He noted that the students’ feedback has been very helpful in adjusting and improving how they run things in the Castle. Since students can no longer see the food at the belt, creating a dialogue between the Flik staff and the rest of the community is important, because it is harder for them to gauge initial reactions. The pandemic is a brand new experience for everyone, so it will take time to figure out how best to handle it. But the Nobles community should be extraordinarily grateful for Flik, as they are working hard to create the best possible lunchtime experience for the Nobles community.