Oct. 31—Hurricane Sandy has left downed power lines, flooding, broken trees and more devastation than the East coast has seen in years. But there is no rest for dining services at colleges and universities with hungry students to feed who have nowhere else to go. FSD checked in with a few affected operators to see how they weathered the storm.
University of Maryland, College Park, Md.
Joe Mullineaux, senior associate director, says: Our campus was closed Monday and Tuesday, but we did a lot of planning and preparation on Friday and Saturday. While we closed units in academic buildings and our food court in the Stamp Student Union, all operations serving resident students remained open. The resident dining rooms had reduced hours opening at 11 a.m. and closing at 7 or 8 p.m., but all of our c-stores maintained regular hours including the 24 Shop, which was very busy from about 11 p.m. to 3 a.m.
While we did not lose power, we do have emergency generators that keep walk-in refrigerators, lighting, beverage bars and all cooking equipment and exhaust hoods running. We also sent out updates to all management staff every four to five hours from 5 a.m. on Monday and around the clock on Tuesday.
Yale University, New Haven, Conn.
Rafi Taherian, executive director, says: We had an amazing emergency command center that was run by all the stakeholders of the university. [Dining] is a part of that and the whole thing was executed in a beautiful way. When we became aware of Sandy’s path, and the potential impact on our community, we began to run various scenarios. In emergencies, it’s all about having a great plan and ultimately having a great execution of that plan. If those areas work well then you come up with your head up.
Classes and university activities were all suspended for two days. We did not end up losing power, thankfully. We took the responsibility to make sure resident students with no access to a foodservice location had supplies for two continuous days. Then we made sure they could come to their residential dining halls and get a hot meal. We had staff stay overnight. We went through this and provided the meals. Because of the plan, we were able to resume normal operations during lunch yesterday. Now we are engaged in the third phase of our emergency response, which is helping those with special needs.
People find comfort in food, so you can’t just provide the minimum acceptable. You need to provide the maximum possible. You need to have access to reliable resources and access to your great staff, which make all of it happen. We have a great partnership with our suppliers. They were ready when we needed them.
Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.
Kendra Boyer, marketing manager, says: Georgetown University Dining Services, which is managed by Aramark, was able to open for service during the hurricane emergency. Although short staffed and unsure what the day would bring, emergency preparedness plans were put into place and the team was able to pull together to provide 7,600 meals in a six-and-a-half-hour period. Electricity was not lost, and the dining hall was open "all you care to eat" from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Additionally, the Grab'n Go meal exchange program, which offers pre-packaged meals for students, was expanded and students were encouraged to come for lunch and take extra food along with them for dinner. Keeping the safety of our employees in mind, overnight stays on campus were provided. We are very proud of our employees and were happy to support the Georgetown campus community.
University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Mass.
Garett DiStefano,director of residential dining, says: UMass felt the effects of Hurricane Sandy. Ken Toong [executive director of auxiliary services] and myself were a part of the response team and met with key campus personnel at our Emergency Operations Center (EOC). Ken instructed the Campus Center to remain open 24 hours as a shelter to service any students, faculty or staff members displaced by the storm. We blocked off a number of rooms at the UMass hotel for employees who worked through the storm or could not return to their homes.
The Dining Commons remained open through the hurricane—a very big thank you goes out to our dedicated staff who put students first and kept UMass Dining going during the storm. Ken and I visited each location during the day. We altered our menu and served comfort foods such as spaghetti and meatballs and chicken noodle soup along with our staple healthy world cuisines. Additionally, we allowed emergency personal to eat for free. Our goal was to build community while Sandy took its course. Fortunately, UMass did not suffer any major damage as a result of the storm. Although thousands were without utilities in Western Massachusetts, UMass did not lose power and was able to continue with normal operations.
Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.
David Davidson, managing director of dining services, says: Harvard University did not lose power. While the university cancelled classes for the day, our staff was still on duty. They are remarkably dedicated and made their way to work no matter the conditions. That said, when public transportation closed at about 2 p.m., we did work closely as a team to ensure that staff could get home or be put up in a hotel for the night.
Generally speaking, HUDS had enough food on hand for several days of service without major modifications. In anticipation of the storm, we ensured that orders were in early so that we would be fully prepared and stocked in advance. Lunch and dinner on Monday was very busy as students were around their houses or living areas and were able to enjoy more leisurely meals. Last night at dinner, students across campus offered a standing ovation for the staff.