A week before Hurricane Irma roared into Florida with 130 mph winds, Florida State University and Seminole Dining took action to make sure every detail in the university’s emergency preparedness plan was discussed and implemented.
As Irma exploded into a frightening Category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean, the university and its food service provider Sodexo USA teamed up to keep students and faculty informed about the storm and dining services.
Before the storm reached Florida, Gov. Rick Scott closed all schools for two days. As forecasts worsened, FSU and other universities extended campus-wide closures through September 15. Florida State made plans to continue essential services like food preparation and delivery to students staying on campus.
For example, several days prior to landfall, the university fueled and prepped the nation’s largest custom mobile kitchen, the Seminole Cruising Kitchen, to provide dining services for students, faculty, and staff in the event of a long-term campus power outage. Fortunately, the main campus did not lose power and truck was ultimately not needed.
As Hurricane Irma hit South Florida on Sunday, September 10, Seminole Dining delivered breakfast and bottled water to 3,800 students in residential halls so they could stay indoors and prepare to shelter in place.
Later that afternoon, Sodexo food service employees prepared and delivered an extra 7,600 boxed meals to the residential halls to make sure every student had three full meals to sustain them during the expected 18 or more hours of hurricane conditions.
Sophomore Katy Brannon, a resident of Ragans Hall, praised Seminole Dining’s extra efforts, including its timely updates on social media. “If I hadn’t been following Seminole Dining on Instagram, I would never have known some of the dining halls were closed,” Brannon said. “I really took things seriously after seeing that.”
As Irma swept north across Florida and moved past Tallahassee, members of the Seminole Dining team quickly prepared a barbecue-style dinner for students and served them at the Dunlap Champions Club in Doak Campbell Stadium. Thousands of hungry students took advantage of the hot meal and enjoyed each other’s company.
Parents expressed heartfelt gratitude for the way Florida State and Seminole Dining kept them informed and took care of students. Some of the comments from parents included:
“Proud to be an FSU Mom! Great job.”
“Lots of awesomeness here! Go Noles!”
“Sodexo gets it! Great addition to FSU and the community.”
“You guys are truly doing an amazing job. For a parent who lives in Miami, you have made this difficult time so much easier by making sure that our children are safe and well fed. Thank you!”
After Hurricane Irma passed, university and Seminole Dining staff continued to work around the clock. On Thursday, September 14, they partnered with local vendors to organize a food truck event featuring FSU’s Seminole Pies and Seminole Dining’s Street Eats Truck. Students were able to fill up with free food.
Now, Florida State and Seminole Dining are reviewing the implementation of the university’s preparedness plan and documenting lessons for the future. And everyone who pitched in to help care for the FSU family is getting a special thank you from FSU Vice President for Finance and Administration Kyle Clark.
“Our staff was superb,” Clark said. “Everybody put in the time and energy to make sure we were successful, and the safety of our students was uppermost in our minds the entire time.”