• June 5, 2020

ECISD reaches 1 million meals served - Odessa American: ECISD

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ECISD reaches 1 million meals served

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Posted: Thursday, May 21, 2020 6:24 pm

Ector County ISD’s School Nutrition Department has served 1 million meals since March 17 and they will likely keep serving even through July and August.

That includes breakfast, lunch and a super snack. Initially, it was just breakfast and lunch.

“Like I said, I put on our social media post, to put in perspective it amounts to providing meals for the entire city of Odessa more than eight times over,” Director of School Nutrition Brandon Reyes said.

“We’re very excited and obviously the work that we have will continue on for as long as we can take it. … Letters will be going out in the next couple of days to inform the community that we’ll be extending our meal service through June 30,” Reyes said.

USDA will extend some of its waivers so they will likely continue into July and August, but the likelihood that sites will be reduced is pretty good. They normally serve through June, which they are mandated to do by the state since the district has more than 50 percent of its students on free and reduced lunch.

“But we may have a little bit more modified meal service because we want to make sure that we give our folks a little bit of a break, but at the same time, work to meet the needs of the community,” he said.

The peak was March 20 when almost 30,000 meals were served. The super snack was not included.

It started dropping off after that, but by March 31, they were still serving about 10,000 lunches.

On a regular day, School Nutrition serves 15,000 breakfasts and 16,000 lunches Monday through Friday.

School Nutrition has 260 on staff and about 150 to 160 working. Odessa High School alone has 16 people, but you can only have four people there to abide by social distancing rules in the kitchen.

Two school nutrition workers, one at Gonzales Elementary School and one at Permian High School, tested positive for COVID-19 and entire teams at both campuses were replaced so the previous teams could quarantine.

Since the initial panic of the pandemic, Reyes said the numbers have dropped off, but he said a lot of factors went into that.

“When this first kicked off, there was a ton of uncertainty. There was a ton of panic. There was a ton of just people not knowing what was coming next, so that played into a lot. You’re hearing of food shortages, toilet paper was running out. Everybody was like hey this is it, so everybody was rushing to the stores. The stores weren’t letting people in. You had to wait in line, so food was really hard to get so a lot of people utilized us as an additional resource,” Reyes said.

As time has gone on, things have opened up and there has been more food availability so there’s less panic.

“… But we’re still serving about 3,900 children per day, so that’s definitely enough to keep going. Our area got the double impact of the coronavirus and the oilfield … The good thing is the meals are there for anybody,” Reyes said.

Meals are available to youngsters 18 and younger regardless of whether they attend ECISD schools.

“We’re very excited. Our team’s been out there. It’s been super hot. They’re wearing their masks. We’ve implemented work-rest cycles,” Reyes said.

He said he’s told team members to take as many breaks as they need to during the day even to just sit in their car with the air conditioning going.

“That way, you can remove your mask. You’re in your own little environment. You can just take that much-needed break. We’re trying to do everything that we can for them, both to protect them from the virus and also to protect their health and well being,” Reyes said. “We wouldn’t want someone to get heat exhaustion during meal service (or) have anything bad happen to them.”

“There’s no limit to what we’re doing to try to make sure that they have what they need and they have the time to do what they need to do,” he added.

Reyes added that he’s been truly inspired by his staff. When the pandemic started, he said nearly 80 percent of them stepped up to help.

“… I was extremely, extremely inspired by our team because they’re so selfless. They really love the kids. They love the community, so they’re very dedicated. This was a testament to that. Like I said I’ve been very, very impressed and I’m going to do everything I can to continue to make sure that they’re taken care of one way or another,” he said.

ECISD Spokesman Mike Adkins said School Nutrition’s efforts are remarkable.

“The work that Brandon and his team did and have continued to do over the last 10 weeks is pretty amazing when you consider how many rules and restrictions” have been put on just to serve meals, Adkins said.

He added that they have been constantly adjusting the process and the management of it and to still have 1 million meals served in that amount of time speaks to the level of commitment and being determined to provide meals for the students.

“We applaud their effort,” Adkins said.

Odessa, TX

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