Persistent food service staffing issues worsened by Omicron


Mo Marks

A staffing issue of food service workers has led to the adjustment of hours at Simpson dining locations.

by Caleb Geer, Staff Reporter

Food services on Simpson College’s campus were already struggling before the Omicron variant of COVID-19, but it has only gotten worse. Being an already short-staffed program, not much needed to happen before temporary shortened hours were announced.

On Jan. 13, students were sent an email concerning changes to food service availability from General Manager of Sodexo, Julia Neer Crady. Noticeably, the biggest adjustment being that Pfeiffer Dining Hall would be the only dining facility open during the weekend.

It was determined that Pfeiffer would be the solution while the other facilities were closed. 

“We expanded the hours at Pfeiffer so there was always something open,” Crady said. With only the single facility open on the weekend instead of the usual four, the campus was able to get by with the food service workers it still had available.

Food service workers were luckily not directly affected by the new wave of COVID-19, but a few stepped away to maintain their health instead. 

“Some of them have underlying health issues and, especially with cancer, I don’t blame them. Or, their son has cancer, and it’s like it’s not worth it,” Crady said.

Crady said that most of the student workers employed in food service decided to step out until COVID-19 calms down.

The workers that continue to show up to keep campus fed are sometimes putting in extra hours. 

“They’re tired, but you know what? They have good morale with each other, and so honestly we wouldn’t be able to do it without them,” Crady said.

As campus food services scraped by it seems that students had no issues adjusting. 

“I think it’s fine. I haven’t really had a problem with it,” first-year Amelia Bothwell said.

Since the main change in the food service schedule involved the weekend, students that go home on weekends remained unaffected.

As of an email sent on Jan. 21, most food service facilities will be approaching the hours they were originally opened. Tyler’s Grill will once again be open on the weekend.

However, both Millie’s Coffee Shop and the Red Mango will continue to be open under restricted hours. Neither will be open on the weekend until further notice due to a greater shortage of food service workers at both locations.

The barista position takes extra training that a majority of the food service workers have not had. This leads to the inability of shifts to be covered even when workers are on-hand. 

“Any person who wants a job as a barista, we’re hiring,” Crady said.

Besides Millie’s and the Red Mango, Crady wants to maintain what the campus has for food services through the coming weeks as the nation continues to battle the Omicron variant. 

“Hopefully we can plunge back in, and whatever this new normal is, get back to that,” she said.

The issue remains that the food services on campus are understaffed. The question that will need to be answered soon is whether or not Simpson and Sodexo will raise the pay in order to hire the necessary number of workers. A long-term solution for staffing has not been found.