In spite of schools being closed as of March 16, the school food service department continues to provide meals to students. The meals are available to all children age 18 and under. According to Business Manager Bill Hoff, “The meals are a great service to help parents out in this challenging environment, whether for financial reasons or just to make their lives easier.”
As soon as the closure was announced on March 12, the food service department, led by Food Service Director Ben Gashi, began planning to offer breakfast and lunch to students. The first meals were served on Wednesday, March 18. Meals are bag breakfasts and lunches. They are distributed at four locations at various times to make pick up more convenient for families: Suffield Middle School, the fire station on Thompsonville Road, Fire Station #3 on Babbs Road, and at the Brook Hill Apartments.
The daily menus can be fairly basic such as a muffin, a cereal bar, or yogurt for breakfast and a ham or turkey sandwich for lunch. However, we have also done egg sandwiches for breakfast and pulled pork sandwiches or sloppy joes for lunch. According to Mr. Gashi, “We have a creative cooking staff and they are looking for ways to provide variety in the menu while using up some of our current food supplies. Mac and cheese may be on the lunch menu soon.” All meals must meet all the requirements of the federal school breakfast and school lunch program for both nutrition value and a variety of components. We do offer options for those with dietary restrictions such as vegetarian or gluten free.
The first week we served around 50 breakfasts and 50 lunches each day, which we served each day of the week. The second week we added meals for Saturday and Sunday. In order to simplify pick up for parents, we switched to providing meals only on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday by providing multiple days of meals at each pickup. As the closure continues, the number of meals increases each week. We have ramped up to over 400 breakfasts and over 400 lunches per day. This means we are producing 1,600 meals for Monday and Wednesday and 2,400 meals on Friday. It has become a major production operation.
It has been a team effort to accomplish this. Our administrators assisted in distribution the first week. Our paraprofessionals have taken on that responsibility since then. The paraprofessionals are also helping prepare the bags for distribution. Our food service staff has grown from a few staff members preparing the 100 meals to preparing 1,600 or 2,400 meals in two kitchens. Our facilities department has assisted in delivering the meals to the various locations. Lastly the fire department has allowed us to use two of their stations to distribute meals. This has been especially helpful with the chilly and sometimes rainy weather we’ve had. If families are interested in meals which are available for any children 18 or under who live in Suffield, they can sign up for meals at https://forms.gle/bZ5KXNrLMtvvs8wL6 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.