TULSA, Okla. — On top of many challenges schools are facing right now with the pandemic, districts are also battling staff shortages.
From teachers to bus drivers, positions are tough to fill. Union Public Schools is also looking to fill another critical role, child nutrition staff. Thousands of students go through the food lines at Union Public Schools every day. Families with students in virtual learning can also drive up to get a meal.
“At the very first of school, we’ve been feeding about almost 10,000 lunches and 6,000 breakfasts," said Lisa Griffin, director of Child Nutrition at Union Public Schools. "And then we also do supper meals.”
From pizza to tacos to fruit and veggies, Union aims to serve fresh, local foods to its students. But, lately, finding people to make and serve the food has been difficult.
“Today, we are out nine people out of 30," Griffin said.
The district is looking to fill 17 child nutrition positions. One of Union High School's cafeterias could only open three lanes instead of four due to the staff shortage on Friday.
“It causes lines to get bungled up," Griffin said. "Kids see the long lines and don’t come and partake in our meals. And it reduces our revenue. So, then, therefore, we can’t hire as many people. So it’s a cycle. We need to serve as many students as we can and have as many lines open as possible.”
In the meantime, office staff are coming in to help out and give some relief to those in the kitchen.
“They sort of feel burned out," Griffin said. "If they see support coming in and that we can do the same things they do and want to help them then that lifts up their spirits.”
These ladies are doing more than just serving food. They’re giving support and making a difference in students' lives, one meal at a time.
“We try to encourage our people to always say something positive to the students every day," said Angie Treat, child nutrition coordinator for secondary schools at Union. "We don’t just slap something on their plate. We try to say, ‘Yes your hair looks nice today. I like your shirt that you’re wearing. Have a good day. Have a nice weekend.' What you say to them may make a difference that day.”
You can learn more about joining Union's Child Nutrition team here.
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