Food Service Department - Our Heroes

Heroes. This is the perfect word to describe our food service staff.
Posted on 10/01/2020
Food Service Department - Our Heroes

Food service teams often go unnoticed and are under-appreciated. Covid-19 has taken these essential workers out of the backroom and into the spotlight. 

Since Covid-19 struck and Prince Edward County Public Schools (PECPS) was forced to close, our food service department has served over 90,000 pre-packaged, take-out meals to the children of Prince Edward County. Prince Edward County Public Schools serves a community where 68% of families are identified as low-income. We are a Community Eligibility Provision(CEP)district, based on income data collected through the Virginia Department of Social Services and the Virginia Department of Education. 

Heroes. This is the perfect word to describe our food service staff. They were not given any time to consider the impact of Covid-19 on themselves, their families, or their communities; instead, they just went to work. They cooked, packed, traveled, delivered, and partnered – they served our families - all so that our students were provided essential nourishment. They never stopped. They will not stop.  They are heroes to our children, our parents and our community. 

PECPS food service workers began by providing pre-packed meals to six different locations, spread across our 356 square mile county, two days a week. When we say they traveled and delivered, we mean it. Some of our meal pick up sites were more than 20 miles away. Many of our families lacked the necessary transportation to meet at sites, so in order to make sure our children were fed, our food service department made special exceptions to deliver meals to individual’s front doors.

Can you imagine the planning, time and organization that went into making sure that the children of our community were fed? Each day was spent cooking and packing non-perishables into hundreds of bags. On delivery days, perishable food was added to bags and bags were loaded into vans, cars, and busses. They were then hauled to the six different pick-up sites. Food service staff members set up an outdoor office and spent a large part of their day outside in the heat of summer, and the rain and cold of late, serving families.  They adjusted the pick-up times to try to accommodate the many different schedules that our families have, and they did all of this with smiles under their masks. As soon as the last bag was put in the vehicle, they returned to school to prepare for the next distribution day.

Our food service department even took distribution days to the next level. They partnered with local community organizations to provide art and books to families with their meals. Again, imagine the endless paperwork necessary to make this all work. They documented the distribution of all of the materials and asked for age and grade information to make sure that families were given appropriate resources. They did all of this because they wanted to add a little extra joy to the lives of those they served. 

As if that was not enough to show how flexible and accommodating the PECPS food service department is, it is worth noting that they have had to adjust and pivot their process three times since the pandemic began and schools closed on March 13th. After recognizing the varying needs of all of our families, they have adjusted days, locations and additional times. 

 This department, led by the Food Service Supervisor Bruce Davis, has developed an online meal ordering system. This new system has proven to decrease food waste so that the team doesn’t pack more bags than needed, and so that families can choose which pick up location works best for them.

In a time of great need, food insecurity, and social isolation, the food service department at Prince Edward County Public Schools has become our frontline and has filled a huge need. This team knows our children, and our families, and they see them multiple times a week, providing a smile, and a life-line of security and comfort - filling tummies and hearts in Prince Edward County.

*Photo is pre-mask ordinance.