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Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024
The Eagle
Food Pantry Side

AU and local businesses respond to student food insecurity

Administration discusses last week’s food service, future plans

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on theeaglecoronavirusproject.com, a separate website created by Eagle staff at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in spring 2020. Articles from that website have been migrated to The Eagle’s main site and backdated with the dates they were originally published in order to allow readers to access them more easily.

With the coronavirus pandemic forcing some students to remain in the D.C. area, food insecurity remains a huge concern for those getting by on their own. However, the University has put measures in place to support students remaining on campus in emergency housing and those living off-campus. 

Before the University announced in an email on March 12 its plan to transition to online classes for the remainder of the spring semester, AU Dining partnered with restaurants Chef Geoff’s and Surfside to offer free meals to students and families before the move-out on March 23.

According to the University’s frequently asked questions page, students will receive a prorated check in their student account for the portion of the term that they will not utilize the meal plan. Students who are still in the area and want to use their meal plan can do so at the available locations on campus.

“To be really frank, it’s a very fluid situation ...  the entire country is dealing with the new reality,” said Chuck Smith, the executive director of auxiliary services. “What we’ve committed to do is to feed anybody that’s in emergency housing that’s on-campus. If we have an ability to expand our role we will.”

Additionally, the Market, AU’s on-campus food pantry, will be available to students during regular hours. According to Tony Hollinger, director of military-affiliate support and special initiatives, all students staying on-campus in emergency housing will have automatic swipe access to the Market. 


“Right now the whole process for AU Dining is being changed and modified, so that’s why there’s even more of an emphasis on making sure the Market is available,” Hollinger said.

To first address the issue, Smith said he immediately reached out to local businesses to help provide meals for students during the week of March 16.

“When we looked at what it meant for our students and families to come back to campus in kind of an uncertain environment, having to get up and go back home, we wanted to make sure we had adequate food for everybody, including parents,” he said.

Chef Geoff’s, which is located below Smith’s office on New Mexico Avenue, provided hot dinners like eggplant parmesan and barbeque chicken. Geoff Tracy, the owner of Chef Geoff’s, said they delivered around 200 meals each day.

According to Tracy, this partnership not only brought the restaurant much needed income during a time of uncertainty in the food service industry, but it also gave him a chance to support AU students. 

“I’ve been serving AU students and staff and faculty for 20 years,” he said. “It’s been great, so I was just thrilled to be able to do that.”

Tracy and his staff, who split their time last week between catering for AU students and designing a “Neighborhood Pantry” to serve locals, believe it is important that they pitch in what they can.

“Every place is making it up as they go along — this is such a surreal week,” Tracy said. “You basically do what you can do with the hours in the day. It doesn’t make sense to just do nothing, you have to do something,” he added.

Junior Curtis Hayashi said that he felt grateful to AU Dining and the partnering businesses for providing free meals. 

“I’m glad the University is using its available resources to just provide free meals to all students because I think that’s a great way for AU to be inclusive of all students, regardless of their financial situation,” he said.

Hayashi, who stayed on campus during spring break and has regularly voiced his opinion to AU Dining about the lack of options during breaks, said that he would like to see this support continue in the future. He participated in the three free “community meals” provided over spring break. 

“A part of me is saying I’m not sure if AU Dining would’ve had those lunch and dinner meals for free for students unless the COVID-19 situation were a thing,” he said. 

cmulroy@theagleonline.com


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