UT staff, students provide food to the community during the winter storm

Jennifer Errico

Editor's Note: This story first appeared in The Daily Texan's February 23 print edition.

On the morning of Feb. 17, Jester 2nd Floor Dining and Kinsolving Dining Hall faced a pizza, scrambled eggs and burger shortage. When Mynor Rivera heard the news, he hopped in his pickup truck and drove 35 miles to a Housing and Dining warehouse in Buda, Texas.

“I wanted to make sure we didn’t run out of the students’ favorites,” said Rivera, Director of Dining Operations. “During these times you want comfort food, so I wanted to ensure we had enough. I didn’t want anyone to be disappointed.” 

Rivera said he and his coworker, Colin Scott, piled 150 cases of food into the back of Rivera’s truck, supplying J2 and Kinsolving with enough food to last through the night. The next morning, Feb. 18, a delivery truck dropped off 1,500 cases of food for the rest of the week. 

Last week’s historic winter storm touched all 254 Texas counties, leaving over 4 million households without power for days and almost half the population with water infrastructure problems. During the height of the winter storm, UT staff and students found ways to provide food to the Austin community despite freezing temperatures. 

“I (have) lived in Chicago, Boston, New York and Michigan so I’m used to driving and living in this type of weather,” Rivera said. “Most students aren’t, so my main goal was trying to make them happy and comfortable during a time of crisis.” 

Rivera said around 1,600 students ate at J2 for each meal during the storm. Economics senior Vincent Duong was one of these students. He didn’t have power for five days in his West Campus apartment and still has limited water pressure. 

Duong said he spent last week walking through the snow and ice to friends’ apartments for food and warmth. He went to J2 on Tuesday and Wednesday for dinner, eating four plates of food and taking two containers to go.

“When you’re starving, you just want all-you-can-eat food, so I’m so thankful they decided to open up J2 and Kins,” Duong said. “The quantity of food literally saved me.” 

On Feb. 18, nutrition junior Antony Rodriguez saw crowds of hungry students lined up to get the free pancakes  JP’s Pancake Company food truck was giving out. Rodriguez said seeing the amount of people lined up inspired him to do what he could do to help.

He said he wanted to provide alternative food options for students and walked 11 miles with his roommates in below freezing temperatures to find food to distribute. 

They ended up buying and delivering 10 Domino’s pizzas for lunch and 26 packs of fried rice for dinner to students at the Texas Union. 

“I felt bad for students who were really struggling because I wasn’t as impacted (by the storm),”  Rodriguez said. “After seeing the need for food among students, I thought, ‘Okay this is how I can help.’” 

Rodriguez and his roommates continued to provide food to students and people experiencing homelessness over the weekend with their own funds and donations from friends and strangers on social media. In total, they bought 700 chicken tenders from Canes, 5 trays of fries, 28 boxes of fried rice and 63 boxes of pizza. 

“One light at the end of the tunnel is seeing how willing people are to help the community,” Duong said. “I know I wouldn’t have been able to get through this if it wasn’t for the help of others. I’m truly grateful.”