Posted Date: 03/04/2021
Union Public Schools in Oklahoma has served more than 2.3 million meals and packaged more than 6.5 million individual food items between March 2020 and January 2021, the USDA Food and Nutrition Service noted on its website as it spotlights success stories around the nation.
Approximately 62 child nutrition employees have worked to provide free breakfasts, lunches, and suppers for children, totaling more than 76,000 meals per week.
Switching to Pre-Portioned Packaged Foods
During the 2020-2021 school year, Union Public Schools serve meals in the classroom, in the school cafeteria, via meal delivery using bus routes, curbside for meal pick up, and by sending meals home with students for weekends and holidays. Changes to food production procedures were necessary to support social distancing and the need to pre-portion millions of individual food items. The district has utilized makeshift storage and meal preparation tables in the dining areas of schools. Between March 2020 and January 2021, school nutrition staff packaged more than 6.5 million individual food items in bags or foil. The district’s administrators and other volunteers regularly pitched in to help bag meals, roll carts full of meals to the pick-up location, and assist with meal distribution. Recently, the district purchased new bagging machines to make the packaging of food more efficient.
Focus on Local Foods
Union Public Schools has focused on serving the same foods that appear on the menu during the regular school year to ensure that the school meals are familiar to students. Locally grown tomatoes, squash, onions, potatoes (including a purple variety called Murasaki sweet potatoes), and lettuce are often part of the meals, providing families with fresh produce and supporting local farmers.
Supporting Families through Themed Events
Union Public Schools used themed events to make meal pick-up more fun for children and families. For example, on Book Day, school staff provided free books during meal pick-up. Other themes have included Carnival Day and a Pet Day.