The Austin Chronicle

AISD Food Service Has Been Feeding Local Kids, Pandemic Be Damned

By Jessi Cape, November 27, 2020, Features

Perhaps the most exemplary of "it takes a village" scenarios in 2020 has been fulfilling the need for school meals during the ongoing global pandemic. Breakfast and lunch are available during normal education calendars, but never before has the need to feed students been greater, with tens of thousands of families furloughed and laid off, many parents working from home, and all children at home seven days a week. Facing the unprecedented and sudden shuttering of local schools at the beginning of the pandemic, and then numerous pivots throughout the semester and summer break, Austin ISD Food Service expanded their work to include not only students, but all youth under 19, plus caregivers. Daily pickup lines were organized at schools across the city, and as the year and the crisis were perpetuated, so were the nutrition teams' tremendous efforts. In this second half of the year, meal distribution shifted to seven-day packs full of scratch-prepared produce and proteins, filling healthy foods, and free farm produce boxes. Partnerships with local restaurants and nonprofits helped boost the flavor and amp up volume, while social media shares continue to inspire creative uses for box components. As some students transition to in-person classes while many more remain in virtual school, the cafeteria crews are currently tasked with double-duty food prep to keep bellies full and minds sharp. As winter approaches with no definitive end to pandemic trials in sight, we are grateful for the continuing hard work of every member of the kitchen staff, distribution teams, and organizers.

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