PHOTO: Davis High is one of the four locations serving lunches from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. every weekday during distance learning.
By Genna Olavarri,
The Davis Joint Unified School District Department of Student Nutrition Services has adapted their program to feed children in the community during distance learning.
When schools shut down in March, the state issued multiple waivers that allowed school districts to provide free meals to anyone under the age of 18. “I want to feed every kid that’s hungry so the more people I have available to me that I can do that for, the happier I am,” said Mark Powell, director of student nutrition services.
However, the current waivers are set to expire in December. If the waivers are not renewed, reduced price and free meals will only be available to certain students enrolled in the district. “We would be forced to go back to normal traditional NSLP [National School Lunch Program] service which would require us to only sell to our students; we couldn’t provide food to other household members under 18,” Powell said.
Typically, district-provided meals are made to be served in bulk directly to an onslaught of hungry children. Now that meals must be individually packaged for distribution, many go-to recipes have been suspended. “Right now we have to serve kind of cold food. […] When we have regular days we were doing a little bit more scratch cooking,” said Rita Popoca-Harley, the Davis High kitchen manager.
Nutrition staff members at higher risk for COVID do not go into work but have their jobs preserved for when it is deemed safe for them to return. The rest of the staff work at four school locations in shifts to promote safety and limit their potential exposure.
“It’s kind of sad that we have to go through this,” Popoca-Harley said. “When we have the cafeteria, I mean we talk to the students, we joke to the students. […] It’s completely different [now].”