“It will be different.”
That’s how Rochelle Loutsch, food service director of the Vermillion School District’s lunch program provided by Lunchtime Solutions, Inc., described the serving of meals to the district’s students when the new school year’s classes begin on Aug. 20.
The lunch program will be implementing several changes that include extra safety steps to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As far as the meal service for the 2020-21 school year, all of the principals decided the same thing – to have cafeteria dining with staggered meal service,” Loutsch told the Vermillion School Board Monday night. “This means fewer students in the cafeteria at one time, so there will be about 20 minutes per feeding and 40 students in a group.”
She said that no students will grab their own silverware, napkins, or touch the same serving utensils.
“That will all be done by service staff, but the students will still be able to select what they want. Staff members will also hand out milk and put condiments on the tray,” Loutsch said. “The cashier will manually enter the students’ pin numbers so no students will touch the same thing, basically.”
Lunchtime Solutions, Inc. is going “back to the basics,” she added, when it comes to menu planning for the upcoming school year.
“They (the menus) will include items that can be easily prepared, easily served but it will be stuff that the students really like,” Loutsch said. “K through 12 will receive two lunch options, a fruit and two veggie options to start the school year.”
The changes will mean more Lunchtime Solutions, Inc. staff will be busier than in “normal” years.
“Executing serving trays, silverware, napkins, entrees, fruit, vegetables, milk and condiments will be very labor intensive to start for the staff,” she said. “Adding more options to the entrees and fruit and vegetable selections will be evaluated after a couple of weeks, knowing that the more we offer, the more support and resources we’ll need.”
The start of classes next week will mark the end of the “Grab and Go” food service program that began when school buildings were closed last March.
“This week marks week 22” of the Grab and Go program, Loutsch told board members. “By the end of this week we’ll have served 60,000 meals to students. The program has always been a success but those totals definitely prove that it was well received in the community.”
Grab and Go was held at the middle school. Parents or children’s caretakers would drive by the front doors of the school to be greeted by volunteers who would provide sacks full of meals for kids.
The program received national attention when teachers from Austin School, dressed in dinosaur costumes, volunteered their services one day.
“That went viral through the USDA and South Dakota. It was something that was reached by, I think, two million people. It was a really fun way to start off the program and throughout the program we’ve always done hat day or dressed up like superheroes,” Loutsch said. “We’ve kept it fun and I think the kids have looked forward to coming through the line, seeing their teachers, and especially looking into their sacks to see what they’re being served. The 22 weeks went by really fast.”