School community holds parade to thank food service workers

President John F. Kennedy once said, “We must find the time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.” That’s exactly what the Two Rivers–Dos Rios Elementary School community did. Teachers, school staff and some parents holding colorful homemade signs lined up for a 15-car parade in front of the school to celebrate the cooks and other staff members who provide some 300 meals daily for neighborhood children while schools are closed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

school community with signs

“Our cafeteria staff members have been going in to work, while most of us have been at home, and they’re working really hard to prepare meals for the kids in our community,” said Renee Tobler, an education assistant at Two Rivers. “I just thought it would be a great thing if our school community could come together to thank them.”

Tobler says that since schools in Springfield, Ore., closed on March 16, some school staff—including the cafeteria workers, maintenance staff, custodians and administrators—are still going to schools to do their jobs.

“The maintenance staff and custodians have been sanitizing our school building and power-washing playground equipment so that the students and the rest of us will have a safe environment whenever we do go back,” Tobler said. “The day of the parade was a great time for the folks who are still working to see that they are appreciated. It also gave the rest of us an opportunity for some social interaction—at a safe distance—with each other.”

“One of the hardest things about the school shutdown is that you really miss interacting with colleagues, and you really miss the kids,” she continued.

Seeing at least some of the students during meal pickup time—from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., every Monday through Friday—helps make the hard work of preparing 300 meals daily worthwhile, says kitchen manager Kim Moseley.

“Two of us usually get here at 6 in the morning, another staff member comes in at 7 and one other person who helps us pass out the meals comes in around 9:30,” Moseley said. “It’s nice to know that we’re providing a service to the community that’s really needed.’’

“I know a lot of the families in our community needed help even before this health crisis happened,” Moseley said. Before the current school year, 100 percent of the students at Two Rivers qualified for free and reduced-price lunches. While the number of children receiving free or reduced-price meals has dropped to 70 percent (Tobler said the change may have been due to changes in the Department of Agriculture’s eligibility guidelines), Moseley and Tobler said there are still families who are struggling. Teachers and school staff at Two Rivers have pulled together to lend a helping hand.

food service workers

Before the COVID 19 school shutdowns, kitchen workers assembled snack packs with food to send home with students to help feed them through the weekends. And when some families had trouble keeping their children’s meal accounts current, the school’s staff stepped in. “This past Christmas, our staff members and some retired staff got together to make a sizeable charitable donation to bring kids’ lunch accounts up to date,” Tobler said.

Two Rivers–Dos Rios is one of nine school sites where children of any age can go for grab-and-go meals, according to the Springfield Public Schools coronavirus response website.

“I feel like these are some really scary times, where we don’t know what’s going to happen,” Moseley said. “There’s really not much we can control, so I figure I might as well be helping. Seeing people the day of the parade, it was nice to know that our community cares and that they are happy that we’re here to help.”

[Angela Callahan]