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Shining a light on the onsite food service industry in schools, hospitals, colleges

Social media snapshots of food service operators serving communities during coronavirus.

As I sat down to write this letter, it wasn’t fear, despair or sadness that came to the forefront. Instead it was friendship, gratitude and an overwhelming sense of pride.

Onsite food service operations are rarely the flashy side of the food service industry. You’re the people who keep the country running. You feed the future of the world in our students at schools and colleges. You nurture the sick and elderly in our hospitals and senior dining facilities. You fuel the workforce in our B&I locations. And rarely do you receive the accolades you so rightly deserve.

And then the coronavirus hit, giving—nay, forcing—you into the spotlight where you truly shined. Lunch ladies (I say that with all the love and respect in my heart) were on the cover of Time magazine!

Onsite operators have always been scrappy and resourceful. You want us to serve a healthy, kid-approved meal for under a dollar? No, sure no problem. How about meeting all the vast nutritional and allergen needs of college students? Check.

So when it became time to completely shift your operations, you were up to the challenge. From a school district in New Hampshire starting a home delivery meal program un under 24 hours to a hospital opening a pop-up market to offer toilet paper(!) and prepared foods to hospital employees, you have found ways to serve your customers.

But your job is, and always has been, much more than simply feeding people. As Eric Eisenberg, director of dining at Rogue Valley Manor, told me recently: “I’m so much more than a dining director,” as he fields calls from yesterday to make sure they don’t feel lonely or isolated at the senior living facility. Or as Betti Wiggins, director at Houston ISD, said: “We in child nutrition, everyone gets to see the skills we have. We’re not just little lunch ladies anymore.”

And I’d be remiss if I did not call out the foodservice teams working on the front lines of our country’s hospitals, serving patients and doctors and nurses. You are truly heroes for the work you are doing.

We at Food Management are honored to share your stories, those stories of service, care, love and hope. This month, we wanted to showcase some of your stories as told through your social media posts. We’ve collected innovative new service ideas, new menu items and more, all with an overarching theme of serving your communities.

From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for everything you do. Be well.

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