Picnic during COVID-19, with UBC Okanagan Food Services staff, including Gary Hartung (front right). Photo: Kristen Thompson.

Gary Hartung is the Associate Director of Food Services at UBC Okanagan. In his role, he oversees the operational side of the department that feeds thousands of staff, students, faculty and guests at UBC’s Okanagan campus.

Which of your department’s teams are currently working on-campus?

Our year-round staff and management team are working on campus, and currently Picnic and the main Tim Hortons are open.

How has the Okanagan Food Services team’s work changed since COVID-19?

There were many changes that took place right away. Our food service locations, including the kitchens, were not designed with social distancing in mind. Our work involved a lot of interaction – from conversations between staff and customers to ordering from the cook and seeing the food made.

One of the first big changes was that self-serve food was immediately removed from all locations, and access to the locations was limited.

In Picnic, for example, customers no longer enter the location.  Orders are taken at the entrance, payment options are touchless, stanchions and floor decals are used to keep people appropriately spread out, and sanitizer is provided. Plus, all takeout cutlery comes pre-wrapped.

At Tim Hortons, plexiglass barriers were installed and staff wear plastic face shields.

Health, Safety and Environment did a great job looking at the procedures we’ve put in place and then presenting to the department the best practices to stay safe.

We are planning for what the various dining locations will look like once the campus begins to open back up, and we will be ready to operate in a safe way for both customers and staff.

UBC Okanagan Campus in May 2020

UBC Okanagan Campus in May 2020. Photo: Gary Hartung.

How does it feel to be providing such important services to residents and the campus community during this time?

With food services being an essential service on campus, enough can’t be said about all the dedicated food services staff who continue to work on campus during COVID-19. Considering all the changes on campus and the concerns that everyone has, staff have stayed positive. Everyone understands it’s an important service for those students still living on campus, and we’re glad we can provide the continuity needed.

Is there anything in particular you and your staff have been doing to keep spirits up?

With the arrival of spring and nicer weather, we encourage staff to get outside, to go for walks on the trails, or to kick a soccer ball around.

The biggest thing is acknowledging what a stressful time this is, and reminding everyone that we will all process the situation differently and face unique challenges. So give people the benefit of the doubt, assume the best in others, and be kind.

What else would you like us to know about your team?

For everyone, the situation was challenging, especially the first few weeks. There was a lot of uncertainty and even fear about COVID-19. But everyone has stepped up and done an amazing job!

Ground squirrel and Magpie

Two remaining residents of the UBC Okanagan campus: a ground squirrel and a magpie. Photo: Gary Hartung.