For Teacher Appreciation week, President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden made their way to Yorktown (Va.) Elementary School and visited with some fifth graders. The school visit was part of the White House’s Getting America Back on Track: American Family Plan Tour, a push for returning to in-person learning for all kids.
Prior to the visit, Yorktown’s Sodexo foodservice team didn’t have a lot of advanced notice but were tasked with setting up a hospitality tent with water and grab-and-go snacks for the media who would be attending and keeping lunch that day on track as well, a duty Sodexo GM Michelle Lee Knotts considers her top priority, no matter how exciting the special guests.
“It was pure excitement,” Knotts says of the moment she heard about the President’s visit, “and then, of course, my mind changes to food: He’s coming to an elementary school where I need to make sure the kids are fed at the same time…what in the world was that going to look like?”
After spending a busy weekend getting logistics set up, portions of the building were identified and some of the production was done off site. “We had to be very tight-lipped” about the planning, “as we were putting things into place, I wasn’t telling the staff about the visit. We had to keep it as quiet as possible,” Knotts says. “I couldn’t believe how much goes into planning when the President is coming!”
On the day of the visit, Air Force One arrived in Newport News, where the Bidens met Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and Virginia First Lady Pamela Northam then headed to the school, where the principal and other school leaders were waiting, along with Congresswoman Elaine Luria and her daughter, Violette.
The Bidens got to hang out on a fifth-grade class, where the First Lady asked a few students, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” (One of the answers was chef!)
The lunch service for the day went off without a hitch, and some of the foodservice staff stood outside and waved to the Bidens—who shouted hellos and thank yous—as they left the school parking lot in “the Beast,” a special armored car.
After the visit, Biden tweeted: “Jill and I visited a classroom today where students are back together with their classmates and teachers. We know what being in school together means for those kids—it’s why we worked so hard to safely reopen the majority of K-8 schools in our first 100 days.”
For her part, Knotts says, “We were truly happy to be a small part of this event; while I was not expecting to meet the President, I was there to take care of our children, because that’s what I’m here to do.”