Feeding Education is Always on the Menu
The Bridgeton Food Services Department’s motto is that “Feeding Education is always on the Menu”. This couldn’t be any more true as the COVID-19 pandemic closed schools. In response the Food Services Department jumped head first into switching from feeding in the cafeteria to curb-side pick-up to ensure that the students of Bridgeton continued to receive proper nutrition. Having a full stomach is key for students to be able to focus on their school work at home.
On March 17, 2020, the Bridgeton Food Services Department began serving curbside pick-up meals due to the emergency school closing. The district plan was devised and submitted by the SBA and a team of administrators. Initially, the BFSD served breakfast and lunch on a daily basis at ten sites spread out through the city of Bridgeton. All BFSD employees were notified that they were considered “Essential” employees and would be reporting to work as directed by the Superintendent.
The immediate plan of action for meal service was to utilize the department’s sandwich packing machine and a variety of pre-made sandwiches for the protein and grain component for lunch. Several products would be used for all the other components and the same structure would be used for breakfast. Inventory was taken in each kitchen on Monday, March 16, 2020 to track the usage of products used from the NSLP in the Seamless Summer Feeding Option (SSO) Emergency feeding program. Participation on the first day and that week was very low. The following week, the district moved service days to every Monday and Thursday only. On Mondays, students would receive 3 days of meals and Thursdays they would receive 2. We are now providing meals for Saturday and Sunday based on a waiver by the USDA. The numbers increased on average by about 380 meals per day. Beginning in April after Spring break, meals were provided to students that they could “heat and eat” at home. The rationale behind this would be to provide more variety, better quality, and a better experience for the students. This would also allow the BFSD to also utilize products in inventory from all the kitchens in the district. Additionally, the BFSD is providing a Family Fresh Produce Box to students and families on Thursdays that are being provided by Seashore Fruit & Produce and the Common Market. These boxes have increased participation on Thursdays while providing nutrient dense fruit and vegetables to those who need it.
The entire BFSD has done a tremendous job providing meals to our community. All the employees have embraced the “Essential” title and come to work every day knowing the risk involved in doing so. The BFSD provides personal protective equipment and we have implemented measures to keep employees safe during their shift. We are awaiting guidance from the USDA and the state department of agriculture on how we will serve in the summer as well as the upcoming school year. Our efforts are concentrated on feeding the students and preparing for the future; whatever that will be. We will remain nimble during this time and adapt to the needs of our students and community.
About the Grantee
The Mission of the Bridgeton Public School District is to provide multiple pathways for all students to attain the New Jersey Student Learning Standards and meet the needs of our diverse student population. All students will be provided with the opportunity and resources to succeed through the creation of state-of-the-art safe learning environments.