From the desk of Chef Ellen
MESSAGE ABOUT OUR ONGOING EFFORTS DURING COVID-19
Like many other districts, our Food Service Department has transitioned from traditional food service to to-go meals in order to continue serving the community during the COVID19 pandemic. Beginning March 19th the Food Service Department has served approximately 700 meals per day at our meal sites. Bear in mind that is 700 breakfasts AND 700 lunches per day. I am very proud of my staff for the dedication they have shown towards students and families, and I am grateful to Superintendent Goguen and the district for their commitment to serving the public and protecting the health, safety and livelihood of our essential district workers during the pandemic.
As skilled food service workers our cafeteria staff was already in the habit of practicing excellent food safety and sanitation behaviors prior to COVID19. Among those behaviors are consistent use of disposable gloves; wearing hairnets and head coverings; frequent handwashing; and frequent sanitizing of all work surfaces. With the advent of COVID19, I would like to share with you the enhanced health and safety precautions that are practiced at all of our meal sites to assure you that we are both preparing and distributing our meals in the safest manner possible for the protection of the food service staff and the public..
First, we could not maintain a safe and healthy work environment without our custodians. Every day they are tasked with cleaning and sanitizing every surface that has been used or touched, from cafeteria tables and floors to doorknobs, lightswitches and trash receptacles. Entry into the buildings has been severely restricted so that only the kitchen and cafeteria areas are utilized by staff, and no one is allowed to enter the buildings except for food service and custodians. Food service staff and custodians are really working as a team to keep our kitchens safe and clean for staff and by extension for the public.
Social distancing is enforced both inside the kitchens and outside in the serving areas. In the kitchens workers are spaced 6’ apart by moving some workstations onto the serving line areas and cafeteria. By doing this there is more than adequate space for us to observe the 6’ rule. Masks offer extra protection and are required in the kitchen and outside on the carline while serving the public at all meal sites. I am in contact with the Board of Health regarding COVID health and safety precautions and they have provided us with masks. As always in food service, disposable gloves are required both in the kitchen and while distributing meals on the carline, as are hairnets or head coverings. Disposable aprons are also provided to staff.
Meals are held in the kitchen at proper temperatures and are replenished to the serving areas by staff runners. Outside on the carline, meals are packed by a team with only one staff person physically handing meals to customers. We ask customers to either roll down their window or open their trunk and meals are placed inside the vehicle thereby eliminating unnecessary contact between food service staff and customers. Customers who walk to the meal sites are instructed to stop 6’ from the serving area and a staff member hands their meals to them.
At our remote sites which are served by our van, meals are prepared in the school kitchens and held at the proper temperatures before being packed into insulated carriers for transport to the sites. The insulated carriers are sanitized each afternoon after being returned to the kitchen. Our van is sanitized by custodians before being used to transport meals to sites. WPS paraprofessionals who are volunteering at remote sites are trained in enhanced COVID19 health and safety procedures as well as food safety and sanitation, and are required to wear the same personal protective equipment as food service staff. Masks, disposable gloves, hairnets, hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes are provided to each site.
In the event that any member of the food service staff experiences symptoms such as fever, cough or difficulty breathing they are instructed NOT to report to work and to contact their physician. In the event that any food service staff member does experience these common COVID19 symptoms, procedures are in place to identify and isolate any staff they may have been in contact with, and to temporarily close one or more meal sites as necessary while a deep cleaning is performed and reopening is assessed. CDC-approved signage has been placed in the kitchens to remind staff of these procedures.
Since we began serving on March 19th, we have experienced so much goodwill, gratitude and appreciation from customers that it has made the entire food service staff more resolute in our mission to provide healthy meals while keeping each other and the public as safe as possible. We have heard from so many families that being able to access these meals has been a lifesaver amidst job layoffs and uncertain futures, and that taking a ride to pick up to-go meals at school can also be an important part of providing a sense of normalcy and security for children learning at home. We are proud to be essential workers providing an important service to so many families during this frightening and uncertain time.
Our Grab and Go Sites and Operational Hours
Park Ave Elementary, 58 Park Avenue: 11:00 am - 1:00 pm
Bartlett High School, 52 Lake Parkway: 11:00 am - 1:00 pm
North Village, North Main Street: 11:00 am - 1:00 pm
Head Start, School Street: 11:00 am - 12:00 pm