Celebrating Springfield's School Lunch Heroes
Friday, May 1, 2020, was Annual School Lunch Hero Day. Honoring the dedicated people who feed children at school each day. Even with distance learning, local heroes are working hard to provide a quality meal for kids.
“We have a very dedicated lunch room staff. The quality they have been delivering to our kids is outstanding,” said Keith Kottke, Springfield Schools Superintendent.
The quality of the meals is wonderful, students really enjoy their meals, especially the hot lunches. The meals are so popular the program has grown quite a bit.
When they first started serving the meals during the school closure, the lunch room staff were serving about 450 children a day. Now they are serving 600 children per day.
“They’re going the extra mile for the students. They’re not cutting any corners and the meals taste great,” said Kottke.
Children and family members pick up their meals at several drops in the city and meals are dropped off in neighboring communities including; Clements, Sanborn, Comfrey, Cobden and Leavenworth. Thanks to community members who loaned the school numerous coolers, the meals are able to remain hot for drop-off.
The coordination and organizational skills needed to serve 600 children lunch and breakfast each day is incredible and a group effort. In addition to the lunch room staff, both paraprofessionals and custodians are also working in the lunch room packing and preparing meals. Amy Vanderwerf and Amanda Horkey, both from the district office have also been integral in working with the program. The duo has made sure that the school had the necessary bags and containers needed to deliver the lunches.
To make sure that they’re able to continue to provide meals in case someone gets sick during this pandemic. They have been doing maroon and gold days. In essence, each staff member is either on a gold or maroon team. Each team works every other day. That way if someone was to fall ill, the entire program could continue.
“Breaking into two teams has made us more nimble,” said Kottke adding, “it was the right thing to do to ensure if something were to happen we wouldn’t miss a beat.”
It takes numerous people each day to provide the 1200 meals that go out on a regular basis. For the children though, these school meals provide much more than nutrition.
“The meals are a connection for the students to the school. It represents a relationship to the school,” said Kottke.
The staff enjoys seeing the children’s smiles and happy faces as they pick up their meals.
The students and parents also feel the same way.
“They always have a friendly smiling face,” said mom Rachelle Rients. “My kids are very satisfied with the meals, and they love the treats. It still gives them a connect at school and they’re really liking that.”
In celebration of School Lunch Hero Day a “thank you” card was started outside the cafeteria doors using sidewalk chalk. Messages of thanks and pictures were drawn on the sidewalk thanking Springfield Public School cafeteria staff, paraprofessionals, custodians and bus drivers who are all working to continue feeding children.