AUSTIN (KXAN) — As power outages from brutal winter storms continue to impact Austin, University of Texas professor Katey Outka thinks about her students.

“I spent all day yesterday pacing around my house figuring out what I can do.” Outka said. 

Outka’s house still has power. She wanted to offer her place to others but was concerned about keeping everyone safe from the coronavirus and iced over roads. That’s when she saw a tweet from her coworker Kevin Robbins offering to Venmo students for their meals.

On campus, Jester and Kinsolving are offering warm meals. Cynthia Lew, director of Marketing and Communications at UT, said trucks have not been able to deliver food to the dining halls for days. So they “had to get creative” with meal options to keep it open for students. 

Dining halls have always been open to the community and will continue to charge the usual price of $9.74 for breakfast, $12.45 for lunch and $14.07 for dinner for those without a meal plan, according to Erich Geiger, senior director of Dining and Catering at UT.

“I feel like this is a time that we need to wrap our arms around each other and do the little things,” Robbins said. “It’s not just the money. It’s the gesture we need to let people know that we are thinking and caring and a part of a community that looks after each other when things get rough.”

Kinsolving Dining Hall at UT Austin (Photo: Ashley Miznazi)
Kinsolving Dining Hall at UT Austin (Photo: Ashley Miznazi)

Outka and other professors in the journalism school followed Robbins’ lead and tweeted they would also help as many students as they could.

“I don’t have a ton of money, and I don’t make a ton of money, but I told myself I could cover students’ meals to a certain point,” Outka said. 

When Outka ran out of funds for the students she asked her non-UT followers if they wanted to help or Venmo her. She got almost $500 in her Venmo account within 10 minutes. 

“I burst into tears yesterday when I saw how full my Venmo was,” Outka said. “I even had other students reach out who wanted to help the students who were without power or couldn’t get a warm meal.”

Outka, Robbins and other professors plan to continue helping with meals and ask students and staff to direct message or email them for money if they need it. 

“I think UT is trying,” Robbins said. “Everyone is stressed and everyone is doing something they never imagined doing.”