How school foodservice teams stepped up amid winter storms in the South

College and K-12 dining departments helped ensure that students stayed safe and fed during last week’s harrowing weather.
Sodexo dining team
Photograph courtesy of Sodexo

Harrowing storms rocked the Southern U.S. last week, with Texas being particularly hard hit by winter weather. Amid the crisis, many school dining teams stepped up to make sure students had access to food, water and other necessities. Here’s a sampling of their efforts.

At Jackson State University in Jackson, Miss., where campus remained without water early this week, the Sodexo-run dining team averaged 400-450 takeout meals each day despite the storms and put together shelter-in-place bags for students containing meals, beverages and snacks. Students in sororities and fraternities on campus also assisted foodservice staff where needed.

Several days’ worth of sleet and snow hit Arkansas State University, where the dining team worked to keep as many retail eateries open as possible and Acansa Dining Hall open for three meals daily. “Our staff took on roles they never had before and did it without hesitation or complaints, and all of our students and faculty were so thankful that we were providing them with great food and great service during the gloomy week,” says Ellie Stafford, marketing coordinator for Sodexo at Arkansas State. “The teamwork that was shown last week was something that I had never seen before.”

Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas, also made an effort to ensure students stayed fed. Sixteen managers and associates on the dining team, managed by Chartwells Higher Ed, were able to make it to campus safely the first day after the storm. Despite a small team and power outages, they provided meals and snacks to students, including those who were quarantining and staying on warming buses. The dining team also allowed any student with a current university ID to pick up meals at its dining halls for the next five days, regardless of whether they had a meal plan. The dining team served over 9,000 meals to students on and off campus during that time. 

In Austin, Austin Independent School District provided curbside meals as well as additional food and water for families at several school sites. The district also gave families resources on where to get additional food, water and supplies. 

Elsewhere in Texas, Houston Independent School District offered family food boxes in partnership with the Houston Food Bank this past weekend and in an additional distribution this week, while Lubbock Independent School District provided over 3,000 meals to students last Tuesday and Wednesday, according to Everything Lubbock