Business as Usual

School Food Program Serves Meals to Families

Once+a+family+texts+that+they+are+there+to+pick+up+their+meals%2C+their+order+is+place+on+a+table+outside+by+a+food+service+worker.

Connor Bulgrin

Once a family texts that they are there to pick up their meals, their order is place on a table outside by a food service worker.

By Kaleigh Zollman, Gretna High School

The extended school closure done in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 has affected prom, spring sports and graduation. Students and teachers have had to adapt to online learning. However, other staff members have also had to make drastic changes in order to help students and their families. The Foods and Nutrition Services program has been serving meals for the past three weeks to any student in the community that needs them.

“Our #1 role as FANS (Foods and Nutrition Services) has been to fuel the students so they can learn,” food service Director Ms. Scharon Schaefer said. “Students are now learning at home, but needing meals has not changed. Some families rely on free and reduced lunches for their children and sometimes no school means no food.”

Connor Bulgrin
Meals such as salad and fruit wait to be picked up by families. The meals are served two days a week and anyone is welcome to sign up

Families are able to sign up for meals by following information sent out in an email. Once they sign up for meals, they are available for pick up from 10:00 AM to 11:30 AM every Tuesday and Thursday at GHS and Whitetail Elementary School. Every pickup time, an average of 1200 meals are served. When serving meals, there is a careful procedure involved to make sure families and food service personnel do not have contact.

“When families arrive there are signs to stop one at a time at a pick-up station,” Ms. Schaefer said. “Once at a station, there’s another sign to text their needs. Orders are then filled and placed on the table. After the staff walks away, families pick up their meals.” Food service personnel had to adapt to a new way of doing their work because they are not working the normal five day school week. Not only that but because health is the biggest priority right now, food service personnel must complete routine health checks.

“We have to take our temperatures every day before we clock in,” Aspen Creek Elementary Kitchen Manager Ms. Cheryl Withers said. “If anyone in our family is sick, we cannot work. Now, my normal workweek is two days a week at Whitetail. We spend one day a week doing preparation and then serve another day.”

Connor Bulgrin
More food waits to be picked up. These healthy options include a sac lunch, vegetables, and fruit juice.

When other area schools began to close, Ms. Schaefer began working on a plan to feed Gretna families. Eventually, she came up with the system that is in place now and worked quickly to get her staff on the same page. The process presented challenges to Schaefer, but she was able to work through them.

“A lot of preparation was needed to begin a completely new program in 24-48 hours. Personally, the biggest challenge has been not sleeping and going non-stop to make sure staff and families are well protected. As a team, our biggest challenge has been coming into work and having to adapt to an ever-changing workplace. Everyone that works for FANS has done it with grace, but I know it hasn’t been easy. I’m grateful.”

While COVID-19 has caused life to change completely, the Foods and Nutrition Services program has been able to adapt and continue serving those in need.

This story was originally published on Gretna Media on April 3, 2020.