University of Montana Catering is in charge of providing food to students living in UM Housing provided quarantine and isolation, even if they do not have a meal plan.

University of Montana Event and Planning Manager Ryan Martin said a notification is sent to him once a student is identified by the Curry Health Center or the Missoula County Health Department as being positive for coronavirus. He then contacts the student, sends them an email that includes a link to fill out with questions about dietary restrictions and place of quarantine. This information is then sent to Interim Director of UM Dining Byron Drake.

Once Drake receives the information needed, UM Catering gives the student a seven-day box as they enter quarantine. This box contains a selection of freezer and refrigerator items, candy, granola, chips and other similar items of food. Along with this seven-day box, the student in quarantine receives one hot meal a day that UM Catering delivers to them. They usually receive this meal between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

UM Catering only provides this service to students housed in University housing. These places of quarantine are sections of Lewis and Clark Villages, University Villages and Aber Hall.

Drake said that UM Catering follows the same menu for all boxes, with the exception of dietary needs such as being vegetarian or gluten free, which are prepared separately.

“We follow a set menu so that everyone gets an adequate amount of food,” Drake said.

When UM Catering delivers the food to people in quarantine, it uses hot holding boxes, which are insulated boxes that keep the heat in. Usually it takes catering approximately three hours to deliver between 30 and 40 meals, Drake said.

When a UM Catering employee approaches the quarantined apartment or dorm, they send a text to the student notifying them that their food is coming. The employee then drops it off at the doorstep of the apartment or dorm and leaves, accomplishing the no-contact requirement.

Drake said he started planning for this situation as early as March when COVID-19 became an actual threat. UM Catering delivered a few meals to students in quarantine during part of the 2020 spring semester. He received feedback from those students and made the necessary adjustments to make the delivery run smoothly. Drake said he even spent a week and a half eating only the food from the seven-day box to make sure its contents were suitable.

The biggest challenge that has arisen since the start of this process has been a lack of communication if a student goes into quarantine late into the evening. If this happens, UM Catering does not get a notification until morning. Martin said as long as the student fills out the link attached to the email that he sends out by 6 p.m., UM Catering will get notified.

Drake also said he has to make sure HIPAA rules are being followed, which means only the minimal amount of people can know the identity of the students in quarantine. He addresses this by giving the UM Catering employees only the first names of the students they are delivering food to. Other than that, both Drake and Martin said the process is going smoothly.

“Over the time of when we started, we all have worked on improving and getting it better,” Martin said.

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