The past 12 months have arguably been some of the most tumultuous for students and their families, but the one thing they haven’t had to worry about as their lives turned upside down is where their next meal would come from. The dedicated school lunch heroes at Isle of Wight County Schools have worked tirelessly to safely prep, cook, pack, and distribute meals to students who need them throughout the district. There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to keeping kids healthy and fed this year, and schools across the country quickly adopted new strategies and service models, from delivering scratch-made meals by bus to transforming classrooms into cafeterias.
“As a division, we are responsible for not only the education of, but the health and well-being of over 5,400 students,” said Dr. Jim Thornton, Superintendent of Isle of Wight County Schools. “Many of our students rely on the food they receive at school; for some it might be the only meal they get each day. Finding innovative ways to ensure every student has access to meals became a priority for us when schools were closed.”
When schools shut down last March, Isle of Wight County Schools and foodservice partner Chartwells K12 went above and beyond to feed students and families. Efforts included organizing bus routes on a Sunday right after the Governor-mandated shutdown and preparing and packing meals that were recognized by the USDA and VDOE for the use of commodities.
“I don’t think any of us knew what to expect when we were shut down on March 13, 2020, nor did we expect to be here over a year later,” said Angie Smith, Director, Isle of Wight County Schools - Chartwells K12. “While it’s been difficult, the silver lining of this pandemic is that it showed us what an incredible community we have here. We worked hand and hand with our dedicated bus drivers as they knew how to get to the students within the community that needed us.”
Since the onset of the pandemic, Chartwells K12 has worked with Isle of Wight County Schools and thousands of other schools to ensure students across the country do not go hungry. Every day, more than 35 essential food service workers in the Isle of Wight County Schools have been dedicated to keeping “lunchtime” a bright spot during an otherwise uncertain time. To date, Chartwells K12 has served more than 275 million meals since the pandemic began across the country.
“We are truly thankful for the dedication and passion of our food service heroes, bus drivers, volunteers, and the entire Chartwells K-12 team, whose collective efforts ensured that none of our students would go hungry,” said Thornton.
“Our number one priority is making sure we are feeding kids and keeping them happy and healthy, no matter where they are,” said Smith. “As more students return to school, we’re prepared to serve them safely, and for those who stay home, they can depend on us for their next meal.” Smith was recognized last year by Foodservice Director magazine as a K-12 Foodservice Hero.
Isle of Wight County Public Schools and Chartwells K12 are providing meals for students in school and virtual for the remainder of the academic year every Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at Carrsville Elementary School, Georgie Tyler Middle School, and Smithfield High School. For more information and to stay up-to-date on meals, deliveries and more, please visit: www.iwcs.k12.va.us
About Isle of Wight County Schools
Isle of Wight County Schools dedicates its efforts to create a learning environment that will enable every child to discover his or her unique gifts and talents. Through this vision, Isle of Wight County Schools is committed to preparing approximately 5,400 students in all nine of its schools to be college, career, and life ready. For more information, visit www.iwcs.k12.va.us
About Chartwells K12
Chartwells K12’s goal is to make sure students leave the cafeteria happier and healthier than they came in, by serving food kids love to eat and creating custom dining programs. With more than 16,000 associates in 4,500 schools, ranging from large public institutions to small charter and private schools, Chartwells K12 is built on decades of food, education and operational experience driven by top culinary, nutrition, wellness, and sustainability talent. For more information, visit www.ChartwellsK12.com.