Top Ramen, SpaghettiOs, microwaved mac n’ cheese — these are foods stereotypically associated with the dorm-living college student, but for students living in the dorms at Sacramento State over the winter break, the menu will look much different and much more grandiose.
Following a $50,000 grant approved by the City Attorneys’ Office, the roughly 60 students living in the dorms over the break will be delivered meals by some of the best restaurants in Sacramento, said Sac State President Robert Nelsen.
Replace chicken flavor Top Ramen with chicken and kale salad with fried capers and citronette dressing and an herb-roasted turkey sandwich with mustard coleslaw and housemade potato chips from Alaro Craft Brewery. Replace SpaghettiOs with a Richards Ranch skirt steak hoagie, Grass Valley spinach grits and cinnamon bread pudding from Mulvaney’s Building and Loan.
“They cook really good food, these kids are getting five-star stuff,” said Julia Burrows, senior policy advisor for Sacramento mayor Darrell Steinberg.
Burrows said she reached out to Danielle Muñoz, a case manager for the crisis assistance and resource education support program at Sac State, to see if there were any types of needs the city could fill for students over the break. Muñoz told her that there were students staying in the dorms who may not have much access to transportation or food.
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Over the break, the student housing eateries are closed, and most of the students in the dorms at this time are international students or former foster youth who are part of the Guardian Scholars Program according to Nelsen.
After applying for and receiving the grant through the Justice for Neighbors program administered by the City Attorneys’ Office, Burrows reached out to Patrick Mulvaney, owner of Mulvaney’s Building and Loan restaurant.
Mulvaney had already been a part of the Great Plates program providing meals to seniors. Since March, the Great Plates program has delivered over 500,000 free meals in the Sacramento region, Burrows said.
Mulvaney reached out to some restaurants he thought would be a good fit for the program. The restaurants participating in the Sac State Eats program are Alaro Craft Brewery, Canon, Mulvaney’s, Ambrosia Cafe and Urban Roots Brewery and Smokehouse. Each restaurant will deliver a meal one day a week, and on the weekend the students will be provided a grocery delivery to supplement breakfast and weekend meals, Burrows said.
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The grant will cover the cost of five meals delivered a week for five weeks and the grocery deliveries on the weekend, Burrows said.
Meals will be delivered by staff members from the mayor’s and city council offices, managers from the Sacramento City Unified School District Nutrition Services Department and staff from the office of Congresswoman Doris Matsui, Burrows said.
In addition to providing meals for students, the grant will help these five restaurants to provide some work for their employees during a time when restaurants have been completely shut down for in-person dining due to the stay-at-home order that went into effect Dec. 10.
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“We really didn’t want to lay off staff at Christmas time,” said Ray Ballestero, owner of Alaro Craft Brewery. “So, having a program like this pop up, at least it’s one day a week that we can keep our kitchen busy.”
In addition to the food deliveries, Sacramento City Councilman and Sac State alumnus Eric Guerra used additional CARES funding to provide the students with $25 gift cards to Subway according to Burrows.
The Raley’s on Fair Oaks Boulevard also stepped in to provide soup and tamales to students on Dec. 23 to give them extra food for the holiday weekend, Burrows said.
Mulvaney said that the program provides financial relief and allows for restaurants to put money back into the farm-to-table food chain.
“Things like this Sac State feeding program fit right into what chefs look at as relief,” Mulvaney said. “Because when we get money, then we get to spend that back out on the farms and we get to bring people back into the kitchen.”
Mulvaney also said that providing students with high-quality meals and a list of the farms and ingredients used gives students an opportunity to learn more about great food and the products Sacramento has to offer.
For Ballestero, it is not only a chance to keep his staff working but to also introduce students to their business in hopes that they might come in after restaurants open again.
“We are very grateful for the program,” Ballestero said.