Staff and students work together to deliver quarantine meals

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Courtesy of Dee Kim

Kim coordinates this semester’s meal-delivery system.

Kristi Phillips, Staff Writer

At 4:40 p.m. every evening, a mixture of students, staff and faculty head to Westmont’s dining commons to volunteer for the meal-delivery system that delivers food to students in quarantine. With the number of meals needed and volunteers available often in flux, it’s up to the Student Meal Coordinators to navigate changes, organize volunteers, and make sure that every quarantined student ends up with the correct meal for that evening. Each day, circumstances change and the process looks a little different, yet each day, meals are faithfully delivered.

Dee Kim, Resident Director of the Emerson Hall, is in charge of coordinating this semester’s meal-delivery system. Kim described her role as “multifaceted,” involving collaboration with Residence Life, Institutional Resilience (IR), and Bill Groeneveld, the Associate Director of Procurement & Contracts. In addition to working with longstanding branches of Westmont’s administration, Kim also communicates with the newly appointed Student Meal Coordinators and volunteers from the community.  

Kim summed up meal coordination this way: “Bill Groeneveld, IR, and Residence Life work together to come up with a list of students who need meals, along with their food preferences/allergies.” This list arrives by 4 p.m. every day and Kim collaborates with Residence Life Director Shannon Balram to double-check it. “Then,” Kim said, “I work with the Student Meal Coordinators to get that list to them and they’ll collect the meals and delegate them to volunteers.”

The system has come a long way since the beginning of the school year. “When the year first started,” said Kim, “we had RAs [Resident Assistants] delivering breakfast, lunch and dinner to their residents who were quarantined/isolated. However, we realized that this was not sustainable.” 

James Lopez, a housing worker and RA in Clark who now works as one of the meal delivery system’s Student Meal Coordinators, recalled what this was like the first few weeks after repopulating campus: “We didn’t have the meal delivery system set up yet as what it is now … Very early on the RAs in Clark had to do a lot of meal deliveries” because so many of the quarantined students were concentrated in Clark.

A few weeks into the fall semester, former Assistant Director of Residence Life Dan Taylor began constructing a more sustainable system. “Dan created a system in which quarantined/isolated students would receive a bag with their breakfast and lunch items for the next day and one hot dinner,” Kim explained. “With this system we could have people delivering meals just once a day as opposed to three times a day.” 

While this new system helped a lot, Dee Kim explained that she and her team have continued to look for ways to improve it. The first step Kim highlighted was hiring “competent and capable Student Meal Coordinators to oversee each day of the week.” As one such coordinator, Lopez seconded the sentiment towards improvement, saying, “We’re trying to figure out a system that’s more efficient and less strenuous on the individuals delivering.” 

Lopez explained that his role as coordinator largely involves what he calls the pre-delivery phase: “coordinating with the volunteers: discerning whether [we] need all of the volunteers listed for that given day or if we can ask some individuals to sit it out.” In addition, he noted the importance of “setting up more of the procedure that we’re wanting to follow so that it’s not all over the place.”

Another improvement Kim noted was the addition of “a couple extra golf carts.” Anna Luce, a Clark RA who helps with meal deliveries, enthusiastically declared that “golf carts are a wonderful invention that have really contributed to efficiently delivering meals to quarantine students.”  

Kelly Vivanco, a freshman volunteer who has witnessed the meal delivery system evolve over time, also mentioned golf carts when voicing improvements she appreciated: “This semester has been way easier with golf carts and cars and just more help.” 

As various branches of Westmont administration and volunteers from the community have come together to help those in quarantine, there have been challenging moments and as well as inspiring ones. Lopez recalled that “there were times when we did not have a lot of volunteers and we had to pick up a lot of slack.“ He also expressed appreciation for those who were there “day in and day out” as well as those “committed to being there every week on their given day.”

Kim also highlighted being in a supportive community, specifically among fellow members of the Residence Life team. “There’s a lot going on this year with COVID so I think all the RDs are doing what they can to support each other, the RAs and our students.” 

The meal delivery system appears to have blessed Westmont by not only providing for students in quarantine but also by bringing more of the community together as volunteers. Kim explained, “It’s been nice to collaborate with different groups of people with one main goal in mind — to feed and take care of our students!” Lopez said that “the aspect of volunteering to deliver meals brings pretty unique individuals [together] … and I think it’s been pretty cool to interact with different individuals.” 

Naomi Siragusa, founder and leader of the Quarantine Hospitality Team at Westmont, is one example of a committed individual who joined because “[she enjoys] serving people, and it seemed like a good way to help out.” 

“This is how we can be Christlike to each other,” Lopez argued when explaining the value of helping out with meal deliveries. With its others-oriented service and emphasis on community, the system, to Lopez, serves as a reminder of the importance of “being there for each other,” especially since “we’re all in this together.”

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