RSS sorts through meal logistics for K-5 students’ new schedule

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 9, 2021

SALISBURY — Almost a year into adapting to delivering meals, drive-thru pickups and cycling through meals for two different groups of students,  a small piece of normalcy is coming back to Rowan-Salisbury Schools’ nutrition department.

Starting March 29, there will be one group of in-person students in elementary schools.

Nutrition Director Lisa Altmann said serving two groups of students has complicated schedules and menu patterns. Instead of serving sausage biscuits for breakfast on a Monday, the school’s had to backtrack and serve them on Thursday as well — staff repeated the menu served in person to the first cohort of students to the second. The department also had to send home three days worth of the same meals with both groups of students.

Altmann said she tries to offer variety to students, but it can be difficult. Running an enterprise that serves thousands of students every day is more complicated than preparing a single meal at home, and the menus that jump back and forth during the course of the week make prep more difficult as well.

Now, for elementary schools at least, the department can offer the same four daily menus to students and send home the same meals for their virtual Wednesdays. Some things will stay the same.

“I think we have pretty much decided across the board we will leave dining the same as in plan B, where they will take their meals back to their classrooms or we will continue to deliver them to the classroom,” Altmann said, adding there may be some exceptions such as a class coming through the line and then eating outside when there is nice weather.

Associate Superintendent of Operations Anthony Vann said, even though maintaining 6 feet of distance will not always be possible with more students in buildings at once, the district is planning to keep kids as far apart as it can.

There are some new challenges that will come along with the change. Notably, meal bundle deliveries for virtual students will be changing on the back end. Altmann said families should not notice a difference, but the exceptional children drivers who have been delivering packs with the department will now be preoccupied with getting kids to school.

The nutrition department has some of its own vehicles and will work with outside drivers transporting middle and high school students. It is looking at leasing additional vehicles with federal funding.

Now also is the time nutrition departments make purchasing orders for next school year. State and federal authorities, including the USDA, are advising to purchase as normal.

Waivers that have made much of what school nutrition departments have been doing for the past year possible are set to expire on June 30, a month after the last day of classes for RSS. Altmann is hoping they will be extended again.

“In think that it is an awesome thing when children are offered free, nutritious meals and not have to worry about where meals are going to come from,” Altmann said.

About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

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