Sharing the table with vinyl gloves and a notebook of detailed plans are thank-you letters from the children.
Each one is carefully contained in a protective folder: A hand-colored unicorn with the words “Thank you for lunch!” and another unicorn, Moonlight, who says, “Thank you, Be safe!” Another letter expresses hope delivered in a bag of food.
The main hub for preparing more than 1,000 daily student meals is the H.O.B. Elementary cafeteria, where child nutrition staff have been hard at work since early morning preparing the day’s food. That is not an unusual scene in a school cafeteria, but what comes after is very different.
There are no smiling faces walking the lunch line, no chatter. Instead the cafeteria tables are loaded with hundreds of coolers, each filled with bags of food for students who are sheltering at home because of COVID-19.
Many students in the district get their main meals from the cafeteria during the school day.
When it was decided March 18 that schools would close, the district immediately made a battle plan to make sure students still had meals.
Director of Business Operations Oliver Gumbs, who has been spearheading meal delivery coordination, said, “Our child nutrition staff members have been true heroes for many of our students over the last few weeks.
“They arrive early, prepare the food, pack it, help load it onto the buses, and then wake up the next day and do it all again.”
The kitchen staff are making the food; teachers and other employees have volunteered to assist, and drivers head out Monday through Friday in a bus with coolers loaded with meals.
“We wouldn’t be able to make the meal deliveries happen without the help of our transportation staff, Dana Montgomery, Donna Savini and Bill Waters, who are all there every day to make sure the food is distributed to the families,” Gumbs said.
For weeks now, food has been prepared, bagged, put in coolers, and driven to locations for pickup by students and their families.
“This group is really amazing. At this point they are a well-oiled machine, and we wouldn’t be able to serve as many students and families as we have been if it wasn’t for them, and they deserve all the credit for making this process move forward smoothly,” said Gumbs.
Based on their letters, that’s the same way students and their families feel about the people still working on the lunch lines at H.O.B.