Photo courtesy of Administration and Food Service Workers stand in the Horseshoe bus loading area with pre-packaged Grab’N’Go meals in October, preparing for meal distribution. They have personal protective equipment, such as face masks and gloves, to ensure student and staff safety.

No child left behind: Food service worker promotes student nutrition

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Another lunch rush approaches. Hungry students of all ages and parents line up in humming cars with their identification cards after an exhausting day of remote learning.

For food service worker Priscilla Dunbar, this is just a regular day. Usually, she is tasked with serving Grab N’Go meals to students 18 years old and under every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Having worked in the district for three years, Dunbar understands the necessity of school-provided nutrition, especially during a pandemic.

“It’s very important because many don’t get much exercise due to being in lockdown [during the] early stage of the pandemic and hardly get any vitamin D from the sun,” Dunbar said. “By getting proper nutrition, this can help balance the lack of exercise.”

Similar to many students in the district, Dunbar grew up as a student under the Free and Reduced lunch program until she graduated high school. This inspired her to provide nutritional services to students who were like her, and show a deeper appreciation for the frontline work she does.

“I wasn’t [very] educated [about] what goes on behind the scenes with food service and nutrition, or why we do what we do, [but] I wish I had,” Dunbar said. “[My childhood] has influenced me by getting the students more informed when we encourage them to get their fruits and veggies.”

Dunbar’s three younger brothers rely on the nutrition services consistently as lower-income students. That has given her a personal connection to resources helping struggling families during the financial crisis of the pandemic.

“My family has been impacted during this pandemic as has other families,” Dunbar said. “I was able to relate to those who are going through hardship in bringing food [onto] their tables. Therefore, for me, being a part of [the] district has given me the opportunity to be a helping hand to our community.”

This year’s nutrition services take place on fewer days than a typical school year, but there is still much tedious work Dunbar must complete. In order to ensure the meal distributions run smoothly, she starts “the day by sanitizing tables, lining up food items up on tables, and bagging each item.”

“[The way we serve meals] has changed tremendously,” Dunbar said. “From seeing students five times a week, [we now see] roughly about 20 kids a day in cars with their parents, picking up their meals at the Grab’N’Go curbside.”

Regardless, the hard work is always worth it for Dunbar. Seeing the success of the meal distributions and the enthusiasm of students and their families brings a smile to her face every time a distribution occurs.

“The community [always] comes minutes prior to our service time to grab their kids’ meals,” Dunbar said. “We always sell out.”

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