Inspire Dayton: How this man made sure quarantined students got 16K meals

Monte Veatch, is the director of food services at Cedarville University. He has coordinated and provided more than 10,000 meals to students who were placed in quarantine or isolation at Cedarville University. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF
Monte Veatch, is the director of food services at Cedarville University. He has coordinated and provided more than 10,000 meals to students who were placed in quarantine or isolation at Cedarville University. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

Monte Veatch made sure Cedarville University students isolated or quarantined due to coronavirus didn’t miss a meal — even if that meant 16,000 hand-delivered meals.

For Veatch, the school’s food service director, that meant grueling work hours and limited family time.

“Obviously, there are some sacrifices involved, but you just keep your eye on the big picture,” he said.

The Dayton region has a reputation for generosity and banding together in tough times to help one another. That’s been true this year as it was more than 100 years ago when a flood devastated the community.

But social distancing can be isolating and make it hard to know how your neighbor has pitched in. That’s why throughout the month of December, the Dayton Daily News will tell the stories of people who have persevered and inspired others during this challenging year.

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Veatch worked at least 60 hours a week, leading his staff as they served more than 16,000 meals to quarantined and isolated students while also ensuring that he doesn’t infect his wife, who is in a high risk category for COVID-19.

“I just kind of soldiered on,” Veatch said when asked how he managed it all.

Veatch, 54, of Beavercreek, works for Pioneer College Caterers, which provides food service for Cedarville. The Iowa City, Iowa, native has worked at the small Christian institution for a little more than eight years. He’s been in food service since he was 16, when he got his first job at a restaurant in his hometown.

When the coronavirus became a pandemic in the spring, all schools were ordered to shut down. Everyone but international students remained on campus. So Veatch and his staff transformed the self-serve dining facility to have staff members serve students to maintain social distancing. Staffing was much smaller, as hourly employees where laid off and students who worked there part-time weren’t available to help.

Veatch and his staff were more prepared for the fall semester. But it became more challenging once more and more students started isolating after testing positive for the coronavirus or quarantining after close contact with an infected person. Veatch led his staff in developing a food preparation plan.

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Each meal ― breakfast, lunch and dinner ― had to be ready each day to be delivered on time to the students. The meals were prepared to accommodate students’ diets. Snacks, food from the campus Chick-fil-A and other options offered prior to the pandemic remained available to students as well.

“The Pioneer team diligently worked to make sure all students were served well, even those with special dietary needs,” said Tim Abel, an event manager and the coordinator for all evening meals for COVID students at the university. “The meal delivery effort would have never been as successful without the generous, efficient and timely leadership of Monte Veatch, and the tireless work of his team, including Trish Skaggs, Betty Brown, the Pioneer chefs and the rest of the staff members.”

For the semester, Veatch and his staff prepared 33,000 meals per week. That’s in addition to the 16,000 meals they prepared over the course of the semester for quarantined students.

In an effort to meet the demands, Veatch and his management team adjusted their schedules, and worked a minimum of 60 hours a week, six days a week. Some worked seven days a week.

“In August we had an employee meeting, and I told everyone to be a willow tree and bend, not break this year,” Veatch said. “So that was my choice, and it’s been our mantra.”

Despite the demanding schedule, Veatch’s wife, Denise, and daughter, Reece, were supportive. He was also particular about not exposing his wifeto the coronavirus since she’s at high risk. He adjusted his schedule at times, working from home and going to work at times when fewer people were there.

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Now that the semester had ended and students have returned home, Veatch and his staff will have a lighter schedule. For the next four weeks, they’ll be feeding student athletes who remain on campus.

Everyone on the staff deserve the break, he said. Their work ethic, sacrifices and diligence inspired him to keep going

“And everyone from the dishwashers to the other managers, everyone stepped up and were flexible and had a good attitude, and rose to the challenge,” he said.

For 2021, he’s is looking forward to life getting back to as normal as possible, and the dining facility returning to self-service and offering students more options, he said.

Inspire Dayton

Throughout the month of December, the Dayton Daily News will tell the stories of people who have persevered and inspired others during this challenging year. Tell us who inspired you in 2020 by emailing jordan.laird@coxinc.com.

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