Feeding a village

Heidi Rich

PHOTO/Matt Bieker

The July 5 boiler explosion at Argenta and Nye Halls rendered the two buildings unlivable one month before the start of the fall semester. And while the problem of where to house over a thousand new students was obvious, the damage to the Down Under Cafe (the main dining hall on campus) raised another question—how to feed them. Heidi Rich is the Marketing Director for Nevada Dining, which worked with outside vendors to create Howler Village, several furnished, climate controlled tents meant to provide students lunch and dinner for most of the fall semester before a new, semi-permanent structure is slated to take its place this November.

What happened after the explosion?

Our team was amazing in that, you know, the same day that all of that happened—I mean, obviously, we still had people to feed. We still had summer groups, summer conferences, summer school, students that were living in Argenta, and all those people needed to eat. So immediately we converted what was the Overlook Cafe into our dining hall and were able to offer food for the first responders, food for the students, and food for the summer camps and groups and conferences that had already contracted to be here with the university. So, I mean, it was within a matter of hours that we were like, “Here’s what we’re doing. Here’s how it’s going to happen, and here’s how it’s going to function for the rest of the summer.”

How did you decide on tents?

Our district manager who works here on campus, he was just immediately thinking of solutions and brought in external companies, reached out to schools that had similar disaster type scenarios or, you know, just kind of quick-fix kitchens, dining options, things like that. And so we ended up connecting with a company called Kitchens To Go, and they were able to come in and help offer some solutions both short term and then longer term. And then it was working with the university, and the university’s been amazing partners in helping to make all of this happen and, you know, and putting up a big structure, albeit for two months.

Where are we sitting right now? How does this whole set up work?

So we are in Howler village, and Howler village is phase one of our two-phase dining solution, or temporary dining solution. So, the eatery at Overlook is operating as our primary dining hall for the next two years while Argenta is being rebuilt. Howler Village as phase one is, kind of, temporary hospitality tents. We’ve got the service tent. We’ve got the three seating, dining areas. We’ve got the patio pavilion where we’ve got games. We’ve got Connect Four, Cornhole, things like that for the students to just come out and enjoy, connect, you know, meet new people, build existing relationships—all that good stuff—and just have a good meal. Howler village will be up until, like, mid-November, and then, in the next couple of weeks, they’ll start working on the Den. And the Den will be down in the in the grass area, or the Jot Travis lawn. Right in between the Jot Travis building and Thompson. Right. That will be a semi-permanent, modular sprung structure where it’ll be all encompassing. All the tables and the chairs and the kitchen, will all be in one area.

So we’ll go from four or five good sized tents to one larger structure?

Yeah, and that’ll be like—The Overlook and the Den will be what gets us through the remainder of time until the Argenta building is rebuilt.