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K-12 food service crews reimagine Thanksgiving lunches with curbside pickup and in the classroom

An attitude of gratitude and a turkey dinner can bring a whole lot of comfort. See how a few of the country’s school food service communities are serving up Thanksgiving this year. Plus, a new take on green bean casserole you won’t want to miss.

“In a normal school year, Thanksgiving lunch is our biggest day of the entire year—actually our biggest few weeks of the year,” says Mary R. Harryman, RD LD MEd, director of nutrition services at Pasadena (Texas) Independent School District. “We normally have so many parents and grandparents who come to eat lunch with the kids in the schools that we end up serving Thanksgiving meals for about three weeks straight throughout the district. This year, due to COVID, no parents or visitors have been allowed on site.”

Since March, the Pasadena ISD school food team has been doing it all: serving virtual students with curbside pickup, feeding other students in classrooms or in the cafeteria six feet apart with plastic dividers.

“From an operational standpoint, we are serving in ways we have never done before. We are struggling financially with decreased numbers of onsite students, extended lines/service hours and various serving methods,” Harryman says. “We are shorthanded under a hiring freeze. We are constantly changing menu items due to shortages and issues with various manufacturers. However, all of these challenges have just made our team stronger. We are determined to safely serve the students in our district tasty, healthy, nutritious meals and continue to provide service with a smile—even if it is behind a mask.”

Check out examples that will make you thankful for the feats these school food teams are accomplishing, from curbside pickup to traditional trays.

Contact Tara at [email protected].

Follow her on Twitter @Tara_Fitzie.

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