On a typical school day, the kitchen staff at Marian High School, Mishawaka, prepares lunch for the students of both Marian and St. Anthony de Padua School, South Bend. When the food arrives at St. Anthony around 10:40 a.m., the elementary school’s lunch staff, directed by Shelly Coughlin, keep it warm, divide it into individual portions and deliver them to the students, who this year are all entitled to eat for free. Then, the kitchen has to be thoroughly cleaned.
On Dec. 1, St. Anthony principal Karen Bogol realized that too many key personnel for the lunch program and custodial staff were now in quarantine, along with several other members of the faculty and staff. With a heavy heart, she called Marian principal Mark Kirzeder to tell him St. Anthony would likely have to cancel its hot lunch program for the rest of the term.
Kirzeder immediately reached out to Marian’s food service director, Cami Whitten. Within hours, they had a plan in place to ensure St. Anthony students would continue receiving lunch and also breakfast.
A team from Marian came to St. Anthony every day Dec. 2-18 to prep and package the meals and then sanitize the kitchen. They also continued the school’s program of offering drive-up meals to families whose children were learning virtually.
In turn, St. Anthony staff members gave up their breaks and enlisted additional volunteers to help pass out the lunches within the building. Many, including the business manager, took on custodial responsibilities.
As far as the students were concerned, everything was operating as usual.
St. Anthony has had many pandemic-related challenges this year, including a two-week period of all-virtual learning before Thanksgiving and lengthier periods of remote learning for the entire junior high. However, through the efforts of both Marian and St. Anthony workers, the elementary students continued to receive a hot lunch even when they couldn’t study in-person at school.
The entire staff has been very creative and generous, said Bogol. School nurse Maureen Vervaet serves on the school’s COVID-19 planning team and has done extensive contact tracing and talking through challenges with school staff and families. She has even coordinated resources for families, like meal delivery and tools and supplies for remote learning. Her participation and assistance have been an absolute blessing, according to Bogol.
The school has done its best to stay open, but the staff is also developing a plan with the local YMCA to potentially provide after-school and other programming. The Y will help St. Anthony school families with child care and e-learning if a particular grade can’t come to school.
Sending members of its own staff and school community to St. Anthony left Marian “a little short-handed, but we could handle it,” according to Whitten. “We need to take care of each other during this time.” Bogol is grateful to now have St. Anthony’s kitchen and custodial staff back, but “we continue to be humbled by the graciousness of our friends at Marian, our nurse and those within our St. Anthony community who have stepped up and accepted new challenges to ensure we can offer families both in-person and remote instruction.”
The best news. Delivered to your inbox.
Subscribe to our mailing list today.