Dining in a Blizzard

10 Dec 2009
A snow storm that broke a 38-year record socked Central Iowa this week and for the first time since 1990, Iowa State University shut down. For students, some of whom weren’t even born in 1990, this meant a day of no classes, sleeping in and getting ready for finals. For ISU Dining services, the 10 inches of snow meant an increase in customers and less staff to serve them with.

With over 9,000 students living on campus, two residential dining centers, two restaurants and three convenience stores remained open. In the dining centers alone, 7,684 meals were served. How was this accomplished when the entire university was shut down?

“We had five people that lived out of town stay overnight in the Memorial Union,” said Jeni Ross, Union Drive Marketplace manager and one of the overnight guests in the Hotel Memorial Union. “We started the day with one cook and three managers and then contacted our full-time and student staff to come in even if this wasn’t a scheduled day for them.”

Staff from other ISU Dining locations volunteered to help out in places where they don’t normally work. The manager of the Hub pitched in at Union Drive Marketplace, workers from Linden Dining Center helped at Seasons Marketplace, staff from the Memorial Union filled in where they could and many student employees came to work even though classes were cancelled.

“With the busses not running, we went and picked up several of our staff members who lived in town,” said Bethany Landon, manager of Seasons Marketplace. “Even though it was totally nuts, everyone was in a great mood and really made it a fun snow day. A lot of students were grateful we were open to serve them.”

Carl Chumos manages three of the locations that stayed open during the storm. His 14-hour day included keeping his convenience stores and restaurant running smoothly and borrowing pizza crusts from a location in town to last until delivery trucks could make it to Ames.

With daily deliveries from ISU Dining’s Food Stores division, how did the food even make it to the students? Food Stores Director, Jamie Lenz, and his staff spent the early hours of Dec. 9 digging out trucks and moving snow to get food and supplies where they needed to be.

Commissary Manager, Rae Ann Kolbet, had sandwiches and baked goods in her kitchen meant for campus cafes. Because the cafes were closed, the Vending staff helped out Food Stores by picking up the items and delivering them to the dining centers. The sweet treats and specialty sandwiches were a welcome addition to the menus.

In the bakery, manager Mark Weber and his staff have worked around the clock to ensure the baked goods make it to ISU Dining customers.

A meal for 300 was planned in Scheman Catering the day of the blizzard. Because the guests were all staying in town, the event wasn't cancelled and catering staff from different units came together and made it happen.

All in all, grateful (and hungry!) customers were fed, the blustery winds stopped blowing and it was back to business as usual the next day. But, if there’s one thing the blizzard of ’09 reinforced for ISU Dining Director, Nancy Levandowski, it was that there really is no “I” in team.

“I was completely snowed in at my house and couldn’t make it to work,” Levandowski said. “I was in contact with the team throughout the day but they had everything under control. I couldn’t be more proud of how they all came together and focused on what’s important and that’s service to our students. I can’t thank our staff and student staff enough for their dedication, wonderful attitudes and their teamwork.”

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