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As snow fell Sunday night, Trinity University Chef Brent Gorman and about a dozen other food service staff unfurled sleeping bags and filled air mattresses on the floor of the dining hall, spacing themselves out as much as possible.

After seeing the forecast calling for several inches of snow, Gorman knew he and other staff would not be able to make it in to work Monday morning to cook for the roughly 800 students on campus. So he called for volunteers willing to camp out on the Mabee Dining Hall floor, where they slept Sunday and Monday nights while roads remained impassable and restaurants and grocery stores shut down.

While many Texas universities struggled to provide food to students during the harsh winter weather this week, Trinity managed to serve about 1,100 meals a day to students, thanks to the dining hall staff who decided to stay on campus.

Gorman said knowing the tight-knit community of the private liberal arts university that he has served for the past three and a half years made the decision to stay on campus worthwhile. He knows some students by name, and they have become like family to him and the dining hall staff.

“You see the same faces,” he said. “You get to know everybody a lot more.”

Freshman Zoe Adama also knows many of the dining hall staff by name. The Fort Worth native said she was grateful for the sacrifices the university’s food service staff made, many of whom left their families at home to make sure students had hot meals to eat.

“It’s nice to walk into the dining hall amidst this craziness and just see a smiling face that I recognize,” Adama said. “To me, that honestly shows the community at Trinity here. I know we’re a super-small school, and it just shows the family atmosphere that we have here, that we can band together.”

Adama and other students have started to put together a fundraiser to purchase gifts for the dining hall staff members who stayed overnight. So far, they have raised about $2,000.

Gorman and the other staff members who stayed overnight did not leave until Tuesday afternoon, when the sun briefly thawed the snow and ice on the roads. While on campus, they cooked meals like chicken parmigiana and vegan lasagna, macaroni and cheese, and brisket. Staff also made sandwiches, pizza, and allergy-free foods.

Another group of dining hall staff rotated in when Gorman and the other dining hall staff left Tuesday afternoon to relieve them. Staff also traveled to meet stranded delivery trucks to make sure the university had enough food.

“It’s kind of hard to get a good night’s sleep on an air mattress, and it was some long days, but it was worth it,” Gorman said. “The students were super appreciative, like always.”

Brooke Crum

Brooke Crum is the San Antonio Report's education reporter.