Good news from the Anderson County School Nutrition Department
Anderson County Timeline for COVID-19 Pandemic and USDA Response to School Nutrition Needs:
March 30-June 30: Curbside Meals were provided each Monday and Thursday by School Nutrition Staff. Volunteers from other school departments facilitated the distribution.
Aug. 10: School began with many new protocols in place.
Aug. 31: Anderson County Schools learned that USDA would allow all schools in the district to serve meals at no cost to students, even students studying online, through December. Our district began this Sept. 9.
Oct. 9: Free meals extended to all students through next May, regardless of the school they attend.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is extending flexibilities to allow free meals to continue to be available to all children throughout the entire 2020-2021 school year. This unprecedented move is part of USDA’s unwavering commitment to ensuring all children across America have access to nutritious food as the nation recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic
The nutrition program director for Anderson County Schools is Margaret Burrell. A brief explanation of the program and changes follows:
The Anderson County Schools nutrition staff, numbering 80, have risen to the occasion many times over the past seven-plus months. The one constant is change.
We were able to convert over to a portable curbside pickup meal distribution in less than two weeks in March and kept that program running through June. Our program is funded by the USDA and student purchases. We receive payroll, human resources, and accounting services from the district, but our revenue is strictly dependent upon the number of meals served each day.
The first two months have been a struggle due to lower participation numbers in our cafeterias, but things are improving. For many years the program has provided free meals to all students at 12 schools, funded by the USDA revenue from the Community Eligibility Program.
The four remaining schools became eligible in September for the months through December. Now, as of Oct. 9, the USDA has extended the free meals benefit through the end of the school year to every school district adopting the program.
The changes and flexibilities the USDA has afforded all school nutrition programs is unprecedented. Ours is a highly regulated program and sometimes the rules just don’t make much sense to anyone, but for now all students eat breakfast and lunch at no charge for this school year.
Many other rules and regulations have temporarily been suspended or amended such as breakfast and lunch can be served at the same time (previously there had to be a two-hour gap), multiple meals can be given on the same day to cover a span of 5-7 days if school is out (previously only one day of meals could be given at one time, and then breakfast during breakfast hours and lunch during lunch hours). If items are in short supply, substitutions can be made for normally very rigid meal patterns. The down side to this is eventually we will have to transition back to the restrictions and this will be hard for staff and students to navigate.
Speaking of supplies, things you would normally think about are not always available such as cereal, ketchup, peanut butter and soy butter, milk substitutes for allergies, plastic forks and spoons, trays, and other takeout type food and supplies. Coins are in short supply and cash handling becomes a sanitation issue at checkouts/registers. Disposable gloves, if available, are four times as expensive as they were pre-COVID-19.
Our Anderson County Schools nutrition staff has shown brightly during probably one of the scariest and most surreal times in recent history. We are so proud of each and every one of them. Give them a problem or a challenge, and they come up with a workable solution quickly. Our schools consistently score 100-percent on health inspections.
Students are in good hands with our nutrition team, and we hope everyone will encourage kids to take part in our program offerings. We proudly serve Gold Kist, Tyson, Hillshire, Kellogg, Pillsbury, General Mills, Sister Schubert, Dominos, Mayfield, Red Gold, Jennie-O, and other name brand items, and do so with lots of love. Please visit acs.ac/Domain/81 for more information.