Posted by: Mia Medina 

For many school districts and child nutrition staff, March 2020 changed not only their operations, but their lives.

This was true for child nutrition staff at Lockhart ISD. They rushed into action to meet the needs of kids in their rural community who went from learning in the classroom to learning virtually almost overnight. While students have returned to the classroom this school year, supply chain issues, staffing shortages and COVID-19 have still made operations less than normal. Despite these challenges, child nutrition staff at Lockhart ISD have continued to prepare and serve meals with grace, adaptability and gratitude.

Christina Olvera is a cafeteria manager at Clear Folk Elementary. Christina loves seeing how happy the students become when her team serves food that the students enjoy!

In the early days of the pandemic, child nutrition staff at Lockhart ISD served meals through a curbside service. Every week, they saw parents drive through to pick up meals for their kids. According to Kim Roberts, director of food and nutrition services, everyone who came through the curbside pick-up was so thankful that they didn’t have to worry about breakfast and lunch, not only because having them made their day easier, but for some families, it was essential.”

“A mom brought her four children to pick up breakfast and lunch… she let us know how grateful she was. They were going through a hard time because her husband had just lost his job due to the pandemic,” said Cristina Olvera, cafeteria manager at Clear Fork Elementary, “I went to bed with that family on my mind. I felt grateful for being able to provide them with their meals.”

Rocio E. Ocampo is a cafeteria manager at Plum Creek Elementary and has been working with the district for seven years. It makes her very happy to know that parents in the district know that the work they do to serve kids is done with love.

Like many other rural districts, Lockhart ISD serves families that live far from the town’s center and, in April 2020 the child nutrition department decided to partner with the transportation department to provide bundled meals along bus routes to ensure that students who lived in rural areas had access to the school meals they needed to thrive in their virtual classes.

Cafeteria managers expressed the impact of these routes. Rocio Ocampo from Plum Creek Elementary said that “the pandemic was so hard for some parents… kids were waiting for the meals we prepared.” Laura Bell at Lockhart High School shared that “packing those ice chests everyday was a struggle, but seeing the kids faces made it all worthwhile.”

Laura Bell has been working for Lockhart ISD for six years and now serves as a cafeteria manager at Lockhart High School. She is often filled with pride knowing that the meals she and her team serve students are both delicious and nutritious.

Everyone had a part to play in the success of their meal delivery program – including community members themselves! Neighbors who received the meals spread the word about the delivery service to others, making sure that every family knew when they could pick up their students’ meals. No Kid Hungry Texas was proud to support the meal delivery service over the summer. Between June and August 2021, the child nutrition staff served over 88,000 meals to students who live in the 300 square mile boundary of the district.

Many child nutrition workers, being essential workers, did not take a break last summer. Instead, they worked to meet the needs of hungry students.

“Some of my staff have lost family members, and some have gotten sick themselves,” said Roberts.

Not only that, but school districts across the country have faced supply chain shortages that has affected their menu item availability and even the availability of the paper trays they serve the food on. Despite these challenges, child nutrition staff at Lockhart ISD have continued to serve free meals to all of their students who returned to in person learning in August 2021.

Beatrice Rodriguez is a cafeteria manager at Pride High School. She loves when the students come through the lunch line excited about what is on the menu!

Many students returned excited about lunch and reminisced about the meals that the bus had delivered to them over the summer. For a lot of students, the meals they consistently received from LISD meant that they didn’t have to miss school food – the only difference was now they were enjoying it with their friends.When asked what life looked like for her team since the onset of the pandemic, Roberts responded “Longer days, but bigger hearts! While staff at the district are working longer during the day, they know how essential their role is and are taking on so much more with open hearts and open eyes.”

Whether it be preparing thousands of meals a day for their students or making sure a counselor knows about students who are struggling with food at home, the staff at Lockhart ISD have gone above and beyond to make sure the needs of their students are met so they can focus on school and being a kid.

We at No Kid Hungry would like to celebrate staff at Lockhart ISD and extend our sincere gratitude for the work that they do to feed and nourish their students both in the pandemic and beyond!