Lockdown at Kendal: A transformed dining program

Before the pandemic, meals at Kendal were crucial for community-building: all Kendal residents gathered in the communal dining spaces to eat and socialize. Therefore, the transition to at-home meal delivery during Covid-19 best demonstrated the increased barriers to forming human connections at Kendal. Moreover, persistent changes in the dining program show the ongoing effects of Covid-19 on reshaping social structures at Kendal.

Kendal established a meal and grocery delivery program, for better or for worse:

Gratitude for innovations in grocery delivery: "But I was very grateful to have Kendal's services along with Kendal's severe restrictions. We had people who shopped for us at Drugmart. And you could get--you could order three items." - Former Oberlin Resident

The need to improve lackluster food: "You know we had meals delivered for us. As I said, food is very important in my life because that was what I did, and our meals got pretty–boring and dull, and I’ve always been very involved in I think creative and flavorful and hopefully nutritious ish? Ish–. And so I–I have always gussied things–I call it, what do I call it? Embellish. I embellish." - Janet Kelsey Werner

Dissatisfaction with delivered meals: "We couldn’t eat with each other so eating was you know they would deliver a bag of food to your door and you would try to deal with it." - Dianne Haley

Residents highlight permanent changes to Kendal's dining program:

The dining program has remained altered at Kendal, even as the threat of Covid-19 recedes. Residents discuss the behavioral and institutional factors that have prevented Kendal from returning to the pre-pandemic dining program. 

People continue to sit with their pandemic bubble: "And if you go to the dining room now, for a few months now we’ve been allowed to sit in there and eat, and gradually they’ve you know expanded the opportunity to do that. But people ate with the people they were bonding with in the earlier times [in the pandemic]. And it’s very hard. And then there are the wanderers who come in. I usually eat with this other couple." - Dianne Haley 

Kendal has maintained its transition from buffet-style to restaurant-style: "But they seem intent upon wanting to serve you. Which I think is bad for a number of reasons. You know portion control. I used to like to say a little bit more of that, a little bit less of that, you know? Now, you just order it, and it comes the way it is. So people around the table, somebody doesn’t eat very much and they have too much and other people have too little, and it’s just not right. So then the answer is 'that would happen in a restaurant.' Well yeah, but in a restaurant, you don’t have to go." - Larry Mirel

Pandemic-era restrictions remain in the dining room: "And it’s really, it’s kind of sad because in the small dining room it used to be cafeteria-style and you could just sit where you wanted. For a while, they were assigning us to tables where we had to sit. And that was annoying. It was annoying. And you kind of felt like you were a school child or something you know." - Dianne Haley

The sit-down new dining program is more rigid: "You had to decide in advance. They seated you at tables. You couldn’t pick your own food–you know it was all. And a lot of that went away. Now some of [the old dining program] has come back. And they’ve had problems that are not related to the pandemic, or not directly related, like staffing problems that they have. So it hasn’t come back to that wonderful feeling we had in Langston [the old dining location] completely." - Larry Mirel 

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Kendal residents had their meals delivered, even on important holidays.