In the month and a half since in-person classes were dismissed in Utah, school lunch programs have shifted from feeding kids to feeding communities. Many in those communities took a moment to say thanks as part of School Lunch Hero Day on Friday.
The Pitt family in North Logan wore red capes as they waited for the bus delivering lunches from Greenville Elementary. Since in-person celebrations are limited due to coronavirus precautions, some local residents took up the idea to wear capes as a show of gratitude to the lunch workers and bus drivers who’ve adapted to keep the meals coming for anyone in the neighborhood under 18.
“I think it’s been a wonderful service,” Suzanne Pitt said. “Our family has appreciated and enjoyed it. We look forward to it.”
Angie Fonnesbeck has been cooking lunch at Greenville for four years.
“We don’t really feel like heroes,” Fonnesbeck said. “We’re just doing our job. We’re feeding the kids, and that’s what we do.”
At the very beginning of the school dismissal, 10 students came to pick up lunches. Six weeks later, the school feeds 400, Fonnesbeck said.
Fonnesbeck said the School Lunch Hero Day cape gesture means a lot to her.
“That means everthing, to know that it’s appreciated, to know that it’s going to good use,” Fonnesbeck said. “That just makes it worth coming and putting 500 sacks together every day.”
Cache County School District child nutrition coordinator Susan Wallentine said workers have really stepped up to the challenge. The warehouse team delivers 4,000 cases to schools a week. Schools are making the most of whatever they have in their freezers as supplier Sysco adapts to every lunchroom in Utah abruptly switching to cold grab-and-go meals.
“Our enrollment for K-12, in Cache County School District, is 18,000 students,” Wallentine said. “And we are preparing that many meals. So not only are we feeding triple, quadruple what we do during the school year — because we are feeding communities now — I just want everybody to know we love feeding children, and be patient with us, because it is a challenge but we’re doing what we can.”
On that note, Fonnesbeck said she hopes kids pick up life skills from microwaving today’s frozen corndog — but Sysco is simply out of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, so the Greenville lunch workers had to raid their freezer.
Greenville aide Vanessa Peterson said handing out lunches every day has been fulfilling.
“It feels good to help out,” Peterson said. “We get a lot of parents who are grateful and say this helps me from having to make three meals a day, helps me from having to go to the store quite as often, and gives them just a little something to get out and go do.”