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Worker shortage causing food service issues at South Dakota universities

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Published: Sep. 29, 2021 at 5:36 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Weary Wil’s in the South Dakota State University food court is usually full of students eating burgers and wings. But as of late, the area is mostly occupied with studying students. That’s because the nationwide worker shortage is impacting universities as well. As a result, South Dakota State University has had to temporarily close down food service at one of its most popular on-campus restaurants.

In a typical semester, SDSU relies heavily on its students to take food service positions across campus. Going into this fall, they’re still looking to fill around 100 jobs.

“I’ve not seen a time in [SDSU’s] history where we’ve had a more pronounced shortage of workers,” said Doug Wermedal, SDSU Associate VP for Student Affairs.

The situation is causing the university to get creative.

SDSU has reassigned workers who would usually staff Weary Wil’s to other, higher traffic, locations.

“We’ve instantly tried to mitigate that though, in terms of choices, so we’re going to bring to campus a couple of food trucks,” Wermedal said.

In addition, some coffee shops have gone to pick-up only.

“Our emphasis has been to keep as many sites open as possible,” Wermedal said.

In Madison, Dakota State University is also experiencing difficulties finding food service employees.

“For the moment, we haven’t had to close anything completely, it’s just adjusting the hours,” said Amy Crissinger, DSU VP for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management.

However, both Universities say it doesn’t fall just upon the students to fill these spots.

“Really, anybody that’s in the foodservice industry is dealing some type of personnel shortage,” Wermedal said.

Just as they have throughout the pandemic, these universities will continue to adapt.

“We’re all in this boat together, and it’s something that we have to figure out how to manage and make sure it works out for everybody,” Crissinger said.

Going forward, SDSU hopes to add pool tables, along with other games, to the Weary Wil’s space so students can still enjoy the area while food service isn’t available.

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