Dining provider visits campus residential halls to deliver drinks, snacks

Here’s new arithmetic from campus this week (bear with us, math professors): purring truck engine + waft of cooked food + invitation to partake = delighted students.

Norwich University’s transition from in-room to campus quarantine this week freed food partner Sodexo to outfit a catering truck for delivery and tour campus residence halls and barracks, bringing tasty treats, contact-free and free for students.

Wednesday offered macaroni and cheese and pulled pork. Friday brought breakfast sandwiches. Next week, the truck will deliver smoothies and ice cream on Monday, chicken-and-tater bowls Wednesday and a Mexican fajita bowl Feb. 26.

After an arrival-signaling horn honk, the truck stops at residence halls and barracks. Once the truck stops, its driver becomes herald, visiting each dorm floor to invite students, masked and physically distanced, to come out.

There are also deliveries of coffee and hot chocolate. Amelia “Millie” Heidenreich, general manager of food contractor Sodexo at Norwich University, said the offering is different every day.

After an arrival-signaling horn honk, the truck, outfitted with serving tables and sanitizer, stops for 10 minutes each at Goodyear, Patterson, Dodge, Hawkins, Gerard, Ransom, Alumni, Wilson, South and Dalrymple halls. Once the truck stops, its driver becomes herald, Heidenreich said, visiting each dorm floor to invite students, masked and physically distanced, to come out. The coming week’s visits will run from 1:30 to 3:10 p.m.

food truck 8 min
Sodexo’s crew, from left, Millie Heidenreich, Wendy Viola, Robin Lemieux-Ayers, Donald Jarvis and Rebecca Jarvis, staffed the food truck Friday. (Photo courtesy Millie Heidenreich/Sodexo.)

In Thursday night’s Update from the Hill, President Mark C. Anarumo said the truck’s rounds and sit-down meals at the Wise Campus Center dining hall meant hot meals had returned to campus after weeks of boxed grab-and-go meals during the modified in-room quarantine.

“It was spectacular,” Anarumo said of Wednesday’s macaroni and cheese topped with barbecued pulled pork and cheese crumbs. “Students were very grateful.”

Parents seemed to be grateful. On Norwich’s Facebook page, Robin McLeod Matthews wrote, “Hoping this brightened their day! Thank you so much.”

On the Norwich University Parent and Family Facebook page, G. Salas Arevalo said, “Keep up the good work.” Seventy-four people “liked” an Alumni and Family Relations Assistant Director Stephanie Snell’s photo collection.

Evolving idea

Heidenreich said the truck idea emerged partly from a plan to provide a breakfast sandwich bar and partly because a pizza-to-dorms delivery earlier this semester had succeeded smashingly.

“The students loved having things brought to them,” Heidenreich said Thursday. “We were looking for something to drive student satisfaction and come right to them so it feels more special.”

Heidenreich said the first day of truck visits attracted 200 students and the second drew 250. She said Sodexo will add staff to the truck as demand increases. So far, she said, the truck’s four-person crew can serve up to 800 students. (Anarumo said Thursday that about 1,100 students are now on campus.)

“The biggest thing is not even necessarily that they’re getting food,” Heidenreich said. “I think it’s that they’re coming outside, they’re getting a little fresh air, they’re seeing their peers. It’s a 10-minute window when they can break up the monotony of what we’re dealing with. I just think it brings them joy.”

(Slideshow photos by Mark Collier/Norwich University.)

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