It was a classic case of matching surplus with demand. Only this time it was caused by crisis.
William & Mary’s dining services had an entire semester’s worth of plans adjusted. They suddenly found themselves with excess food and food storage facilities just as local food insecurity became a real risk.
The Williamsburg House of Mercy serves the community by providing food and housing security and was connected to a campus expert in bringing people together. The rest is history.
“A colleague at the Williamsburg Health Foundation shared that House of Mercy was looking for cold storage space,” said Elizabeth Miller, associate director of William & Mary’s Office of Community Engagement.
Enter W&M Dining.
When the majority of students left campus on March 13, Sodexo, the William & Mary food service provider suddenly found themselves left with food and resources for a semester of serving the campus community.
“We are used to serving over 13,000 meals a day, and to have that change almost overnight was a big shift for us,” said Executive Chef Tim Grayson. “We immediately adjusted our model from serving our campus to serving our community.”
Within days, William & Mary Dining was able to provide freezer and cooler storage in Sadler Center to support the outpouring of donations the House of Mercy received.
By having expanded cold-storage capacity, the House of Mercy has been able to accept climate-sensitive donations as large as a pallet at a time and serve between 75 and 100 families through its drive-thru program, as well as provide a daily hot meal to those in need.
“From the beginning of this outbreak, our neighbors at William & Mary have responded with compassion and support for our neighbors in need,” said House of Mercy director Shannon Woloszynowski. “Students began sending pizzas to our drive-thru food pantry, while staff began problem solving our food storage issues. We are so grateful to be part of a community that cares, especially in moments of crisis.”
One of W&M Dining’s primary goals while winding down operations was also to minimize food waste through donations to as many organizations as possible.
Along with the House of Mercy support, Dining was also able to leverage existing relationships with the Williamsburg Methodist Church and donate 100 bag lunches to Meals on Wheels for children who are out of school and unable to access meals. Dining also donated non-perishables to the William & Mary Food Pantry, which has retained normal operating hours for the William & Mary community.
The William & Mary Food Pantry is operated by the Wesley House at 526 Jamestown Road and is open to any students, faculty and staff who are in need. The Food Pantry is open Monday 1 p.m. to 3 pm, Thursday 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and Saturday 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.