Each day Vinton-Shellsburg school foodservice workers are preparing meals and distributing them to families who rely on school lunches for part of their children’s nutrition. Feeding hundreds of students every day is hard work, but it became even harder when the children weren’t in the school lunchroom.
“At first it felt like we were just shooting from the hip, trying to figure this process out on very short notice,” says Karen Ackman, the Foodservice Director for Vinton-Shellsburg. “Instead of waiting around for direction, our staff went right to work coming up with great ideas to do things in new ways. We used a small crew the first couple of weeks while we were getting the routine down. Now we have everyone at work every day, except for four of our 28 staff members who have underlying health concerns putting them at high risk of serious health concerns if they became infected with COVID-19.”
The foodservice team first thought they would use three-compartment foam containers to package the food but quickly realized that transporting nearly 800 meals each day in those containers would be impractical. Instead, the foodservice staff learned to improvise with different packaging so they could more easily transport and hand-off the meals to parents.
The daily food deliveries that include both lunch and breakfast foods, include about 90 meals in Garrison, another 80 or so distributed at two other locations in Vinton, more than 400 at Tilford elementary, and as many as 90 each day in Shellsburg. The effort involves both the foodservice and transportation departments working closely together.
“The bus drivers have been doing two routes in Vinton, and the Shellsburg route, including Timber Ridge,” explains Karen. “We have two yellow buses going out and the van we use for deliveries in Garrison. I can’t say thank-you enough to Eric Kakac, the transportation director and the bus drivers. Our new phrase is, “the lunch ladies are rock’n it and the bus drivers are roll’n it.”
Duska Phelps, who was with Karen in Garrison, had praise for other school staff as well. “I’m impressed by the guidance counselors at the school who are continuing to reach out to students and to be there for families. I just think that’s amazing. I’m also very impressed with the teachers and all the work they’re doing. We miss the kids, but I think the teachers are really missing being with them. The teachers are delivering things to homes, and they’re excited to do Zoom meetings. They’re genuinely caring individuals who are working hard because they want to do the best they can for their students.
The Vinton-Shellsburg Community School District remains committed to doing all we can to meet the needs of our students and their families.
One way we can do that is to offer FREE meals for children up to age 18.