March 29, 2020–5:57 p.m.
There are many ways to let someone know how much you care for them, but nothing has quite the personal touch of providing nourishment through a properly balanced meal. For some students in the Rome City School system, the only hot meals they receive are those that the school provides. Thanks to the hard work of the nutrition staff, students are still able to enjoy these meals during the time that the schools are closed due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
The nutrition staff, along with other charitable organizations, have always done an excellent job making sure that students do not go without when classes are not in session. While nothing could fully prepare the nutrition team for operating in the current landscape, their efforts to feed students over the years provided a strong model for continuing to do so for the duration of this crisis.
“We are essentially following our summer feeding process,” says RCS Director of School Nutrition Brandy Money. “This is unlike anything we have ever experienced, but having those procedures in place certainly made this easier to pull off.”
Money oversees the meal planning, staffing, and scheduling for all 8 campuses that are providing meals three days a week. They put together meals that cover all nutritional bases with items they know the students enjoy, and in doing so are able to show their love for the students that they are serving.
“Plain and simple, serving these kids is our motivation to get out of bed in the morning and show up ready to work,” says Money. “We know they need us and that is always true, but right now more than ever.”
This process not only fulfills a great need for the children, but also allows for over 70 members of the nutrition staff to continue to work during this time. Social distancing and stringent sanitation policies are practiced for the safety of the staff and students, but there is clearly a joy and sense of purpose for everyone involved in the process.
“The vast majority of my staff are over 50 and they never take off work. Everyone had the option to use vacation time and the few that opted to take time off did so for their safety. They would be here if they could, and the dedication our department has shown and the smiles on their faces while they are working so hard mean the world to me,” smiles Money. “I have to fight back tears just thinking about it. I’m so proud to work with all of them.”
As for the spring break schedule, students can pick up their meals on Monday, March 30th at all eight campuses. Five days worth of breakfast and lunch will be provided on that day, and are frozen so that the meals will last the entire week.
“We wanted to make sure they could eat the meals when they needed them, and we tried to make it as easy as possible. We try to stay a week ahead so we have been working hard to prepare for spring break,” says Money. “We work hard, but we get so much joy from doing what we do, that it makes it fun.”