Food—it’s both a necessity and a luxury that some cannot afford. The current unemployment rates brought on by the pandemic have left many families struggling to keep up with their living expenses, and grocery inaccessibility sure isn’t helping. That’s where people like Joann May, director of food service for District 156, comes in.
Before the pandemic, students in need received food support during lunch and outside of school. But, now that students are learning remotely, May and others on her food service team are delivering meals directly to the students themselves.
“We started serving meal bags as a curbside pick up [service] in March when we first closed the school to students [until the end of the year],” she says. “The curbside meal service began again in August and ended when the home delivery of meals began in September. Home-delivery will end on December 4, and families will be able to pick up meals at East and West Campus for any child in their family 18 years and under beginning December 7.”
Working with McHenry Elementary District 15 and MCHS’s very own transportation department, May says that, as of now, they are packing 270 meals every school day for delivery.
In addition to putting together meals for remote students, MCHS’s food service staff packed and served meals to students who came into East and West for their digital learning.
Delivering a full breakfast and lunch to 270 students every morning isn’t easy, especially during a pandemic. But, May states that in terms of actually preparing the food, it’s business as usual.
“Our staff practices safe food handling at all times,” says May. “Handwashing and wearing gloves are always part of our sanitation routine, even when we are not working during a pandemic.”
However, actually delivering the food has posed some challenges, according to May, and has required careful planning.
“We are of course masked at all times, and try to keep socially distanced from each other as we prepare the meals bags and lunches for students currently coming to school for classes.”
Still, May states that everyone involved is glad they get to do something so important and make a difference within their communities.
“Because we see students five days a week, we develop relationships and friendships with our customers that last for years. Our staff notices when someone is having a bad day, or when a student is struggling with school work, or when a customer gets a haircut!”
“The lunchroom staff cares a lot about all of our student customers,” she adds. “We really miss having students in school.”
Students all across America are already having to deal with school, supporting themselves and their family, trying not to get sick, and the many stresses that come along with being a teenager. The physical and emotional support for a student that comes from a box of food being delivered to their doorstep every morning is a much-appreciated favor that can´t go unnoticed or unthanked.