A look into food service during Hurricane Idalia
Dining hall in the Hamilton “Ham” Center, empty, after a long day of serving students. Photo by Gaby Batista

A look into food service during Hurricane Idalia

For many New College students, and Floridians alike, hurricane preparedness comes naturally, having to face many large storms in the past few years. While some students made plans to evacuate in light of hurricane Idalia, a majority remained on campus, stocking up necessities and preparing for possible power and water outages. Metz Culinary Management, among other campus offices and departments, remained open during the storm to provide meals to those hunkering down, whether they were serving fresh meals in the Hamilton “Ham” Center or delivering meals to neighboring hotels.

General Manager of Metz, Bill Moore, has worked with New College for about eight years now, winning the hearts of many students over the years. When speaking to the Catalyst about the risk of being at work rather than being at home during a major storm he mentioned his love for the students as well as the risk other employees took for the same reason.

“[Our] staff is really committed to feeding our students,” Moore said. “They left their families to be here without reservation.”

This unique situation is one that New College hasn’t had to face before. The Housing & Residential Life and Student Affairs offices worked together with Metz to have meals packaged and delivered to hotels, a task they would have struggled to complete along with preparing their usual daily meals.

“We arrived at 5 a.m. to start the process and ended by 5:30 p.m. and still had dining room food to prepare,” Moore detailed. “We started the night prior with breakfast, setting boxes up, washing fruits and baking what was necessary. Lunch kitchen would work on hot foods and baking cookies. [The] staff would then put meal packets together. It was something to sustain you during a difficult time. The Student Affairs and Housing offices were fantastic with lining up delivery of food and helped where needed.”

Email from Jennifer Meier to students. Photo by Gaby Batista

In an email from Jennifer Meier, Director of the Advocacy and Accessible Learning Center (AALC), it explained Ham would be closing at 6:30 p.m., cuing flocks of students on campus to head to the dining hall ahead of the storm, projected to make landfall later that night and into the early morning.

The email also detailed how students living in the three partner hotels will receive their meals in the coming day, stating that students must not come onto campus for their meals in light of their wellbeing. With no shuttle and three separate calls to not come onto campus in one email, students in hotels were left to survive with what food they were provided or already had.

First years and Catalyst staff writers Maya Rish and Alex Levy both currently live in Home2 Suites and shared their thoughts on the provided meals.

“I am vegan and try to eat very clean,” Levy said. “However, the vegan food mostly consisted of pasta or bread. There was not, for example, an option for gluten-free vegans. However, there was fruit available, and the last meal of orange tofu and broccoli was pretty good. I understand that the staff is overworked and it is difficult to make meals that will please everybody.”

Along the same lines, Rish described the selection as “pretty good” and enjoyed the Beyond burger Metz had prepared as a vegan option. However, there were two caveats that caught the attention of the two hotel residents.

“The bummer was that if the containers weren’t all eaten before lunch or next meal, and there were a lot, they had to throw out the uneaten food which was frustrating because you had to get there early, around 8 a.m.,” Rish described. “Then there was no food between 10-12 p.m. and again before dinner.”

Early mornings are typically not a part of the New College experience, as many students can attest to. Late risers simply had to wait for the next meal period to make it down to the lobby for a meal, and must do so within 30 minutes of each mealtime according to Meier’s email.

“Most of the meals were thrown out by the end of the meal period due to certain food violations which felt like such a waste,” Levy recounted. “The woman behind the desk told us to take extras and refrigerate them because otherwise, she had to throw out perfectly good food.”

Despite the issues of catering to all diets and logistics surrounding getting meals in student’s hands, Metz delivered on their promise to feed students rain or shine. The Catalyst would like to thank all of the Metz staff, chefs, servers and other campus offices that worked through hurricane Idalia to provide for students, regardless of their personal circumstances and safety.

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