The effects of COVID on Flik Dining

Flik Dining, which provides Westminster with daily lunches, has long balanced nutrition with health on its menu. In the last few years, however, Flik has undergone multiple changes to make the dining environment more environmentally friendly and has adapted to the changes brought about by the pandemic. Westminster started using Flik in 2012; before that, Westminster relied on an in-house food service run by Robert Nash. Upon Nash’s retirement, Flik was the first third-party dining service Westminster ever employed. Flik was chosen for its great variety of options and types of food, as well as fresh and healthy lunches.

“Flik always has vegetarian options, and they usually have ingredient substitutions like lentils and tofu,” said sophomore Srija Kasturi. “Sometimes I like it, and sometimes I don’t, but it’s always there.”

Flik uses different vendors to get food. United Natural Foods, a wholesale company, for specialty and vegan ingredients, Inland Seafood for seafood, Buckhead Beef and Halperns’ for meat products, Sysco for paper and miscellaneous food items, Royal Produce for fruits and vegetables, and Tropical for desserts and candies are just a few. Ingredients are sourced from all over the country, and all of the fruits and vegetables served are sourced within a 100-mile radius of Atlanta, ensuring that students and faculty always have access to local and sustainable produce.

 To adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, the vendor United Natural Foods has committed to adhere to all CDC guidelines and set up onsite vaccination clinics for all of its employees. Flik itself has instituted several changes to the cafeteria, such as switching from plates and silverware to cardboard boxes and plastic silverware. While many public health companies and plastics companies encouraged the use of single-use plastics during the pandemic, MIT Medical found that there is no evidence that COVID is spread through food. Other changes included the temporary removal of the salad bar and sandwich bar in Malone, as well as the full removal of the panini press in Brewer Cafe in Hawkins.

 While aspects of Flik have returned to normal, such as the salad bar and sandwich bar, single-use plastics are still in use. 

“With all our venues, like Barge, if we were to do plates and silverware, the main concern is that students are going to be floating around campus, and we’ll never see [the plates] again,” said Chef Jake, the head chef at Flik. “Finding all those plates was the main issue.”

 Flik also has a commitment to hygiene and cleanliness, and the non-single-use items, mainly the cooking items, are fastidiously cleaned. This reflects CDC recommendations to thoroughly wash any cooking and eating items and disinfect all commonly used surfaces.

 “We have a high-temperature dishwashing station, a three-compartment sink, and they’re all calibrated to finish at 180º F,” said Jake. “It’s also got a disinfecting spray that we spray when it’s done. So everything is washed by hand and then run through the super high-temperature dishwashing system.”

 COVID has caused several supply chain disruptions globally, which has affected Flik as well. The closure of food companies, lack of workers, and fluctuations in demand all contributed to this issue.

“With COVID now, the selection has become very hard with the supply chain issues, but we’re making sure that we’re being creative and keeping up with that,” said Flik director, Jane Kees.

 The pandemic brought changes to all of the lives at Westminster, and food is just one aspect of it. It has also reminded people to be grateful for what is provided to them at a school like Westminster.

“We’re very lucky to have access to good food, as many others around the world do not,” said Kasturi.