Superheroes can be found in every corner of life and they are showing up more than ever in daily life, and one group in particular is continuing their efforts to help ensure children who usually get meals at school are still getting them at home.
When Polk School District’s ten campuses abruptly closed school due to the COVID- 19 emergency, members of school nutrition staff immediately launched a plan to serve grab ‘n’ go breakfast and lunch to students.
The effort to ensure local youth are fed through the closure of schools soon saw the inclusion of Bus Drivers, Para Pros, Police Officers, Principals and Assistant Principals, who joined with administration to feed students through the end of the school year. Once the last day of school comes and goes on May 22, Superintendent Laurie Atkins said the district will then shift to their summer program offering students food.
Members of the school nutrition staff have already put in a lot of time in their kitchens to prepare meals ahead of time. From March 16 through April 27, School Nutrition Director Dr. Linda Holland reported that 131,118, meals were produced, bagged and distributed to the children of Polk County.
“I call my staff superheroes,” said Holland. “They are making every effort to ensure that meals get out with all safety measures in place. Every Polk School Nutrition staff have taken and most passed a written exam obtaining SERV SAFE certified, a National Restaurant food safety course. I told them just to do what they had been doing all along.”
Requirements that Holland said were added once the shutdowns began that are becoming common practice is the constant use of face masks and social distancing in the work environment.
Holland said her superheroes didn’t miss a step.
“Without being asked, Lisa Clements, Van Wert Elementary SNP Manager, made cloth face mask for all School Nutrition Workers,” Holland said. “She is currently making each a second mask for each of her teammates.”
Holland said the staff at each school continue to ask how they can serve students and make the situation better, and said she has seen time and again over the past weeks how they have “selflessly put children first.”
“They did not hesitate, they served. These superheroes know how many of our children depend on school meals daily to have nourishing, healthy food,” she said. “They have been there quietly working from day one providing seven days of meals in student’s homes.”
Holland also thanked those bus drivers and para pros have distributed these meals three times a week giving multiple days of meals each time a feeding site is open.
Along with continuing to serve children through the end of the academic year, the School Nutrition staff have another reason to celebrate. May 1 marks School Lunch Hero Day across the nation.
School Lunch Hero Day is a chance to showcase the difference school nutrition professionals make for every child who comes through the cafeteria. 2020 marked the eighth year it has been celebrated nationally.