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School lunch heroes

District celebrating all the hard work cafeteria staff is doing

Photos submitted to Times Observer From left, Katrina Vermilyea and Charlene Swanson.

For more than a month, the summer lunch program has been running fast and furious outside of its normal timeline.

To recognize the many individuals who are making a difference in our community by providing nutritious meals to students including those who may not have that opportunity at home, Warren County School District is celebrating along with National School Lunch Hero Day on Friday, May 1.

“Our cafeteria staff is used to preparing and serving food to a lot of hungry kids, but the food program we are administering now requires them to be outside at various locations around the county,” Superintendent Amy Stewart said. “They have been outside in all kinds of bad weather since the schools were ordered to close, and they are doing it with smiles on their faces because they know how much it means to the kids and their families. I can’t thank them enough for their flexibility and professionalism to get our kids what they need.”

The summer food program has taken the place of the district’s typical school-year lunch program — run through the National School Lunch Program.

Typically, summer lunches are only offered in summer, with better weather, and at a handful of locations.

Photos submitted to Times Observer Nicole Gern with a tray of vegetables for the lunch program.

“Our normal summer food is a vastly difference experience from what we’re doing right now because of the closure,” Coordinator of Grant and Foundation Development Matt Jones said. “Not only are we serving outside, but we have almost triple the number of sites.”

“Our WCSD cafeteria staff have always worked hard to make lunch time the favorite part of every student’s day,” Jones said. “Friendly greetings in the cafeteria, food served up with care, and encouraging students to eat more fruits and vegetables are just standard practice.”

Now, in the face of a pandemic and school closures, our cafe employees have really stepped up their game,” he said. “Our staff comes to work each day to make and pack meals and then stand outside, in all kinds of weather, to hand out almost 2,000 meals to students. We have people driving to those sites, serving outside, in the snow, wind, cold… our staff have been absolutely great with it.”

The total number of meals prepared and handed out is over 50,000, according to Director of Business Services Jim Grosch. “I would like to say how much we appreciate all their efforts and the fantastic work that they’re doing. You can see the appreciation on the faces of the kids.”

“A big thank you to the Nutrition Group for all their help, too,” Grosch said.

Photos submitted to Times Observer Clara Cerula and Katie Strickland.

“We hope you will join us in recognizing their efforts,” Jones said. “On Friday, when you pick up your student meals, take the time to give them a big ‘Thank You!’ for all they have been doing. It could be a card, a sign in your car window, or even a simple cheer, but let’s show them how much we appreciate all they have been doing to care for our kids during this time.”

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