School Food Service Workers Log Long Days During Shutdown

By Denise Dick, Youngstown City School District spokesman
YOUNGSTOWN — While Youngstown City School District and city workers and volunteers distribute breakfasts and lunches to scholars each Monday throughout the school shutdown, work at the YCSD Central Kitchen is a 10-hour-a-day, four-to-five-day-a-week operation.

“Our work doesn’t stop Monday afternoon,” says Sue Paris, YCSD’s chief of food service. “Our employees are logging long hours every day because they know how important it is that our scholars are fed throughout this pandemic.”

Distribution of five days of breakfasts and lunches happens every Monday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., but central kitchen workers begin much earlier.

“We get here about 6 and we have 10 workers who make sure 15,000 meals get packed and put on the trucks to go to the different sites,” says Tascin Brooks, food service coordinator.

CEO Justin Jennings commends the employees for their commitment and hard work.

“Our food service department is a well-oiled machine,” says YCSD CEO Justin Jennings. “These workers are here daily, working hard, taking care of our scholars and making sure we provide breakfasts and lunches throughout this crisis. I appreciate the dedication of all of our employees who make our food distribution happen every week.”

Mondays the 15,000 packed lunches and 300 cases of milk are shipped from Central Kitchen to each distribution site.

After food distribution, food service tallies food that’s been given out, ensuring any items that come back to central kitchen are properly stored.

Work resumes about 7 a.m. each Tuesday and Wednesday, when the 10 employees pack lunches, assembly-line style, making sure each meal has the required components. The meals are then machine sealed.

Food service workers are packing about 7,000 meals per day each Tuesday and Wednesday. That compares to about 2,500 per day when schools are in session.

Workers wear gloves and masks in accordance with health and safety regulations and each employee’s temperature is taken at the start of his or her shift to ensure no one has a fever.

Each Thursday, food service and employees from YCSD’s operations department stack elements for scholars’ breakfasts onto pallets that are loaded onto trucks and taken to the food distribution sites.

“They move pallets of cereal, cereal bars, applesauce and fruit juice to the schools,” Brooks says. “They take 150 cases of food to each school for breakfast alone.”

Paris adds it’s about more than doing a job for food service workers.

“Our employees are very dedicated and they work hard because they know how important this work is,” she says. “We know that we’re all here for the scholars.”

Pictured at top: Boxes of food packages are ready to be shipped to distribution sites.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.