‘Faculty Lunch Heroes’ serve information to college students from Southern Indiana
In honor of Friday’s School Lunch Hero Day, the news and the stands asked local schools how the cafeteria staff were doing for the community during a challenging year. The national celebration set by the School Nutrition Association is designed to recognize the service of school nutritionists.
Local school districts continued to feed students during the COVID-19 shutdown last year, and they have fed students both in person and through virtual learning over the past school year.
AJ Ingram, operations manager for food and nutrition services at New Albany-Floyd County Schools, said that “not just during COVID-19, but every day all staff are heroes of the school lunch.”
Cafeteria staff have the opportunity to “influence every student’s life,” he said.
“Every single meal, every ‘good morning’, every single smile can have a positive effect on every student’s day,” Ingram said.
“We know that breakfast and lunch are the only meals some students get in a day, and that breaks our hearts,” Ingram said. “We want to make sure everyone is fed.”
Free lunches for all students will continue through the 2021-22 school year due to continued reimbursements from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The Clarksville Community Schools have been offering free lunches to all students for several years using a Community Eligibility Commission.
Melissa Pixley, director of food services at Clarksville Community Schools, believes the district’s nutritional services program has an inclusive culture in which students are not “income status defined.”
At the start of the pandemic, administrators and teachers joined the Clarksville Community Schools cafeteria staff to provide food to students during the shutdown and they had even more volunteers than needed, Pixley said.
She believes the district has the “greatest staff you can have” working in the hospitality industry.
“Since then [pandemic] We haven’t stopped serving meals and there hasn’t been a time when we don’t work together to provide meals for students, ”she said. “For me, the commitment and commitment shows that goes beyond what is expected.”
Natalie Turner, director of food services at Greater Clark County Schools, said cafeteria staff rose to the challenge in many ways over the past year.
Cafeterias had to move away from self-service lines during the pandemic, Turner said, and more staff were needed to serve items during meals.
Disruptions in the supply chain have also resulted in employees swapping menus frequently.
“The employees were resilient and handled it like heroes,” said Turner.
Ashley Sanchez, cafeteria manager at Clarksville High School, said the school has “excellent staff” and has great relationships with students.
She said a student gave a thank you letter to the cafeteria staff this week, and when a student learned on Friday that it was school luncheon day, he came to them after lunch to say, “Thank you for all you do “to say.
“When he said that, it surprised me and it just felt so good,” she said.
In Greater Clark, food service workers received many thank you letters from high school students this week, and Wilson elementary school students brought capes for cafeteria staff to wear, Turner said.
“Every school has risen and has really shown a desire to see that [food services] Team and what they do, ”she said.
During that school year, Greater Clark began offering “weekend snack bags” for students that are given to all elementary students upon leaving school and available for collection by secondary students.
The Greater Clark Food Service employees who work at Aramark have come together as a team, Turner said.
“All of my employees are superheroes, period,” she said. “You work so hard day in and day out and I think people don’t realize how difficult food service really is if they haven’t been in that position,” she said. “We serve around 10,000 meals a day in total.”
NAFC turned School Lunch Hero Day into a full week, Ingram said, and they reworked photos of cafeteria workers to make them look like superheroes ranging from flying to laser vision.
Ingram said the district plans to use these superhero photos as a hiring campaign to encourage people to apply to be food service workers in the district.
“I think it’s a challenge with staff everywhere,” he said. “We did it and we haven’t stopped offering high quality, delicious meals, but we are definitely looking for some qualified candidates to join our team.”
NAFC was able to expand its breakfast program during the pandemic, Ingram said, and he looks forward to continuing the free meals into the next school year.
“We’re still feeding the community and we’re very proud of the work our team has done this year, but honestly every day,” said Ingram. We couldn’t be more proud of them. “