Feeding the Freed-Hardeman University, family a “real” Thanksgiving meal made the Lion’s Pride Dining Services staff happy, to say nothing of the students, faculty and staff. “We were super excited to offer a wide variety of more traditional holiday items,” Tamie Torres said. “This is the largest number of items we have been able to serve all semester, and we could not have been happier.”
Because of the ongoing pandemic, supply chain challenges and shortages in staffing, the number of menu items and offerings had to be simplified for the semester. “We also had to consider the ‘take-away’ aspect of what we could prepare and serve. We offered more grab-and-go items and some pre-packaged items we had not offered in the past,” Torres said. “We are still learning what items work and which have not been as successful, based on student feedback.”
While abiding by safety practices for COVID-19 was a new challenge, health safety certainly was not a new concept for the dining service. “We have always had a ‘safety first’ mentality,” Torres said. While all of the cooking staff was already ServSafe Food Manager Certified, all of the staff also received additional training for COVID-19 safety practices before the semester began.
“Freed-Hardeman is such a social place and, of course, students want to be together,” Torres said. “The cafeteria has always been a great place to do this, so one of the most challenging aspects of keeping students safe is practicing social distancing and mask wearing in a place that is meant to gather and socialize.”
Over the late spring and summer when students were not on campus, the dining service still found a way to serve food to hungry people. They began a curbside pickup program for the community. When the semester ended early, the Lion’s Pride Dining Services team sprang into action, getting the curbside service operational in one week. “We needed to keep our core staff employed and we had a community that needed some terrific, tasty and healthy food options during a time when it was difficult for folks to find restaurants that were able to serve,” Torres said. The service was well received with a loyal following. It was so well received, in fact, that dining services hopes to offer the service to the community again in the future.
Another community outreach was also very successful. At the start of the pandemic, members of the dining service staff wanted to help the community. “We saw so many people losing jobs and livelihood and we wanted to help,” Torres said. “Again it came down to feeding them.” The staff contributed their tips from the curbside service, and with the help of other donors, they covered the cost of approximately 250 spaghetti dinners, which were given away. “The response from those who received the meals was very humbling,” Torres said. “We hope to be able to offer this again.”
Thinking back on that Thanksgiving dinner—it was a way for the dining services staff to say thank you to the students. “We wanted our students to know how much we appreciated them throughout this challenging semester. Food is always our way of saying, ‘Thanks’ and ‘We appreciate you,’ “ Torres said.