A campus-wide power outage at Dillard University in New Orleans left students and dining staff with no meal service from Feb. 26 to March 1. Many students were relocated to the Hilton New Orleans Riverside Hotel, and employees were left stranded.
Dillard’s Dining Director Scott Price immediately contacted Phoebe Cook, district manager in southern Louisiana for Sodexo, the college’s foodservice provider. They discussed logistics and decided to serve Sunday dinner that first evening to use up some inventory and minimize loss.
They then reached out to Charlie Casrill, dining director at Loyola University, to create a plan to feed the students lunch and dinner for however long was necessary.
“We quickly jumped into ‘hurricane mode’—it’s almost second nature for us here in New Orleans,” said Cook. “Loyola and Dillard are only four miles apart, and our resilient teams know how to collaborate in a crisis.”
Price and his team prepared breakfast boxes so Dillard students could eat breakfast on campus Monday morning. Then, Loyola opened its dining halls to feed the displaced students lunch and dinner. Shuttles were arranged to take students back and forth, and Dillard Dining employees were on hand to help the Loyola dining staff. The two teams partnered up to serve over 678 meals over a three-day period.
“The chefs at the two schools have great relationships, and it was like old friends coming together,” said Casrill. Dillard’s culinary and serving staff assisted with prepping meals and manning the stations. Loyola was holding a “test kitchen” at the time, trying out new menu items and concepts, so the Dillard students joined in too, providing feedback.
Since not all students came in to eat at the same time, Loyola’s dining halls were able to accommodate the extra bodies. The university also opened its food insecurity pantry to Dillard students.
“We didn’t have to order a lot more food either,” said Cook. “After each meal period, we knew just how many students came through and how much to order.”
Although Dillard staff tried to salvage most of their perishables by lugging cases down to refrigerated trucks parked outside, the power outage did have a financial impact, said Price.
But one part of the program was saved: a crawfish boil that Dillard had been planning as a special event for that week.
“We made the decision to hold it outside on the quad and invite everyone at Loyola to come,” said Price, adding that it was a great way to celebrate the collaboration and thank the Loyola team for their hospitality.