School Lunch Heroes Deliver During School Closure

Photo submitted by Mrs. Lynn Pendleton
The Chilton School District nutrition services staff of Jill Frank, Joan Walber, Ann Wilcox, Mary Kolbe, Noreen Gruel, Cindy Neuber, Lisa Scharinger and Lynn Pendleton (not pictured, Ann Paulson) stand by the school vans they use to deliver hundreds of meals to several sites throughout the district each school day during the school closure.

Last Friday marked the eighth annual School Lunch Hero Day, a national celebration of the school nutrition professionals who prepare balanced meals for America’s students.

“School Lunch Hero Day provides an opportunity for parents, students, school staff and communities to thank those who provide healthy meals to nearly 30 million of America’s students each school day,” according to the School Nutrition Association, a non-profit professional organization representing more than 55,000 school nutrition professionals across the country.

Due to the coronavirus, Chilton School District’s students no longer line up to go through the cafeteria every school day, but the nutrition staff continues to prepare and even deliver nutritious meals for the community’s children.

“The nutrition staff are heroes and deserving of this special day because they really have gone above and beyond to continue meeting the nutritional needs of the students,” said Mrs. Lynn Pendleton, Chilton School District’s nutrition services director. “When this first started, I told my two leads, Jill Frank and Cindy Neuber, that we were able to still serve the students breakfast and lunch and told them how we could. They said, ‘Let’s do it.’”

Anyone 18 and under who lives in the school district is eligible to pick up free meals on school days.

“It has been so quiet and strange not having the students and the majority of the staff around the building,” said Mrs. Pendleton. “It feels empty. It is a great thing to be able to go out in the community and see some of the students and staff yet to remind us how it used to be.”

The current schedule for meal sites is:
● Brothertown on Harbor Road from 11:00-11:30 a.m.
● Vogt Apartments from 11:00-11:30 a.m.
● Chilton Public Library parking lot from 11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.
● Chilton Elementary School office from 11:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
● Ebenezer Church from 12:00-12:30 p.m.
● Diane Street and Steenport Lane from 12:00-12:30 p.m.

Kindergartner Lee Nelson said the nutrition staff are like “the Flash because they give us food super fast.”

And Grant Nelson, Lee’s four-year-old brother, said, “I like picking up meals from school because we get those strawberry things.”

Each bag that is distributed contains a lunch and breakfast for the following day.

“We worked with the rest of the team to figure out the best way to serve the students and came up with menus that meet the nutrition guidelines but still could be served in a bagged lunch form,” Mrs. Pendleton said. “They have worked out many kinks along the way and now are operating smoothly. I’m so very proud of each and every one of them for being flexible and adapting to a new normal.”

Nutrition staff prepare the meals in the high school kitchen and then load them into three school district vans to be taken to the different meal sites.

“It’s worth it. You should get (the meals),” said the Nolan children– freshman KayDance, seventh-grader Slaytt and fifth-grader Drayk. “And it’s free! Who doesn’t want to get free things?”

Federal nutrition standards ensure that school cafeterias always offer low-fat or fat-free milk, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein. School meals also meet limits on calories, sodium and unhealthy fats.

“The day to day operations of the cafeterias changed tremendously since the school closure began,” Mrs. Pendleton said. “We are no longer seeing the students in the lunch lines enjoying the food we prepared, hearing about their day or seeing their smiles. We are operating out of one kitchen instead of two and packing everything up individually almost like everyone is on a field trip. This is a new kind of busy for us.”

Families who want to start picking up meals do not need to sign up, but Mrs. Pendleton said to email her at [email protected] to be sure the nutrition staff has enough meals available at each pickup site.

“Once school is able to be open, we will be looking to add another School Lunch Hero to our team,” Mrs. Pendleton said. “If interested, please contact me.”