Empty cafeterias, pop up food markets, boxed and sack lunches. As Director Donna Carver described, it’s been “a weird year” for Floyd County Child Nutrition.

In her role as director, Carver oversees the lunches served to students in the county schools. While it’s part of the school system, the program is overseen by federal and state entities, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Georgia Public Health.

“The principals each have their own stamp on what they want, so we’ve got several layers going on,” Carver said at the Floyd County Board of Education meeting.

Since students and teachers returned to the classroom back in August under new pandemic guidelines, everyone has been eating lunch in the classrooms. They started out with sack lunches, but eventually got to-go boxes for the students to use.

This has caused a few issues for students and the program, the first being a decrease in quality because of the packaging.

“When you put food in a container and seal it, the moisture gets trapped in there, the breading gets soggy and the quality diminishes,” Carver said.

Choices are also taken away from students because every person gets the same lunch, except for students with special dietary needs.

Under the USDA and Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act, school lunches must be between 750 and 850 calories. While this works for some students, others, mainly athletes, need more than just the 800 calories.

Carver talked about her own son, who would buy two or three lunches a day just to get enough calories. And when students aren’t in the cafeteria, they don’t have this option.

“When they passed the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act, they tried to make a ‘one size fits all’ situation and one size never fits all,” Carver said. “When we have those kids that are there from 7 or 6:45 in the morning to 9 at night doing workouts, that’s not going to be enough for them.”

Board chair Tony Daniel asked why they can’t go back to the cafeteria now that the state has lifted COVID-19 regulations.

Superintendent Glenn White explained that with big events coming up, like prom and graduation, they don’t want to worry about having any student quarantines in the future.

“We have a few schools that have gone to the cafeteria every now and then this year; we have others that have not,” Carver said. “Most schools have their college and career kids eating in the cafeteria because they have nowhere else to go.”

Moving to next school year, Carver said they might be getting money from the federal government to offset some of the things they lost in the past year, including staff.

“Labor has been a real problem this year, but that’s everywhere,” Carver said. “I have 54 employees right now, but it’s not enough for the schools.”

Carver said she reached out to Etowah Employment to fill 12 positions for next year, but they’ve only been able to find two people and one of them quit.

With some of the federal money coming in, Carver also plans to replace some of the older equipment and do some kitchen upgrades at the schools.

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