From delivering truckloads of supplies, donating portions of sales and even sending a bevy of chefs to the Lone Star State to serve meals, the foodservice industry has been at the forefront of helping those affected by Hurricane Harvey in recent weeks. And noncommercial operators in the path of the storm were some of the first to offer aid to local communities, many forgoing evacuation to make sure diners riding out the storm were cared for. Here are some of the ways operators have stepped in before and after the hurricane struck.
Staying open during the storm
Many residents far from home and those on a student income didn’t have the ability to evacuate before Hurricane Harvey hit Texas. At Rice University in Houston, a skeleton crew cared for students still on campus, offering up hot meals in the dining areas. Students did their part as well, helping with cooking duties and collecting supplies for employees who stayed on campus to help. “The students were fabulous,” Susann Glenn, communications manager for Housing and Dining at Rice, said in a statement regarding staff and students’ combined assistance efforts.
At the University of Houston, the 2,000 or so students who remained on campus during Harvey were able to eat, thanks to staff keeping one of its two dining halls open almost 24 hours a day. The school praised UH Dining for working throughout the storm, and university spokesperson Shawn Lindsey told Mic.com that although the menu was limited, the school had no lack of access to dining during the storm.
Serving up free meals
Harmony Public Schools in Houston partnered with a local catering company to offer free meals to anyone impacted by the storm. One campus served up to 250 meals a day until food ran out four days after Harvey. The free hot meals were for anyone in the community, and the school system spread the word about its relief efforts through social media in both English and Spanish.
On a larger scale, the Texas Department of Agriculture received federal authorization from the USDA to allow K-12 schools in hurricane-affected areas to offer meals to students at no cost during the month of September, including breakfast, which is already free for students in some areas, and lunch. The Houston Independent School District also announced that in the wake of Harvey, all students will be eligible for three free meals a day during the 2017-18 school year.
Students at many universities across the nation are stepping up to help those affected, organizing food and toiletry drives, collecting donations on campus and sending volunteer groups to Texas to aid with cleanup. At Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Campus Dining is offering the option to “Share a Side." Through Sept. 10, students can forgo the purchase of a side item with any of their meal swipes and instead donate the value to Hurricane Harvey relief. The program is available at multiple campus dining centers and markets. Vanderbilt Campus Dining is also donating food items to help with relief efforts.