Washington University in St. Louis Team Feeds Students and Front-line Healthcare Workers

Woman in mask with lunch bags

The Washington University in St. Louis Dining Services team is donating meals to frontline staff at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital and others

At Washington University in St. Louis, MO, only about 325 international students and some essential staff remain on campus as of mid-April, relying on the Washington University Dining Services team for meals, snacks, and grocery items. But there were many others in the WashU and larger St. Louis community who also needed help.

Campus Executive Chef Patrick McElroy, Project Manager Julie Farrow, Parkside Operations Manager Hayes Green, South40 Chef Jack Durham, South40 Executive Sous Chef Chris Gapinksi, Director of Purchasing Mike Fairchild, and a small Bon Appétit team jumped into action immediately. One of the first things Pat did was call chefs at local restaurants with whom WashU Dining had worked in the past. Bon Appétit ended up purchasing both fresh produce and cooked items from five local restaurants, including Grace Meat + Three, which went into the WashU and frontline personnel feeding program.

The Danforth University Center (DUC) remains open, offering food cooked to order (following all safety guidelines) as well as grab-and-go meals. The team has also set up mini grocery stores within the DUC and the Paws and Go convenience store, offering fruit, vegetables, dried grains and beans, deli products, frozen meat and more.

Hosipital staff in masks with lunch

Staff at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital sent this thank-you picture for the
meals WashU donated

The WashU Medical School has been one of the medical research universities on the leading edge of fighting coronavirus. Doctors and medical personnel are staying nearby in a separate facility to be close to their work, and some had to be quarantined. With support from the university, the Bon Appétiters have prepared more than 200 healthy, flavorful breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks, as well as 14-day quarantine meal kits, for these front-line workers, with more to come.

“The food program that Pat and the team are offering is as heavily customized — including for kosher guests and guests with food allergies — as the team would normally do under pre-COVID-19 conditions,” said District Manager David Murphy.

Since demand is unpredictable for the WashU staff medical personnel, Pat soon realized that there would sometimes be excess edible food prepared. With help and connections from the university, the Bon Appétit team soon began sending the extra meals to nearby hospital workers. On one recent delivery, SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital (which is part of the WashU system) received nearly 200 meals, including Persian lamb stew with couscous with blistered vegetables. And they delivered 80 Passover meals to Barnes Jewish Hospital!

Global Chef Sona Kukal hosted an online cooking demo on Facebook for her very popular
tikka masala

Meanwhile, the Dining Services marketing team, in addition to sharing all these wonderful community efforts on the @wustldining social media channels, has developed a series to keep guests informed, engaged and entertained. Pat found time to show @wustldining Instagram followers how to level up a noodle bowl found in the markets by adding fresh produce, readily available spices, and various proteins. Global Chef Sona Kukal took to Facebook for a short how-to video on her popular chicken tikka masala from “Tikka Tuesdays.” Connie Johnson, café manager at Grounds For Change, told WashU students how much she misses them via a short Instagram video, while DUC Executive Chef Michael Healy released a series of short, humorous videos about specials and other operational changes.

“Washington University — and especially Greg Minner, Executive Director of Dining and Business Operations — have been incredible partners, and Pat and the entire Dining Services Team have been so tireless and creative,” said David. “I am so proud of them.”

— Submitted by Rob Staggenborg, Senior Marketing Manager, and Brittni Walters, Marketing Manager