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Cafeteria food brings 'a little bit of normalcy' to Grenada students during pandemic

Bill Choy
Siskiyou Daily News
Grenada Elementary will begin the 2020/21 school year on Aug. 26 with in-person learning for those who choose it, but will transition to an all online program Sept. 15.

Comfort food takes on a whole new meaning for students during the pandemic. Keri Patti, Grenada Elementary School's food service director, said she is proud to give her students “a little bit of normalcy during this crazy time.” 

While many schools are teaching students online, Grenada Elementary has more than 200 kids on campus, from transitional kindergarten up to eighth grade. 

Through all of challenges COVID-19 brings, school meals must go on for both breakfast and lunch. The two-person crew at Grenada, sisters Patti and Barb Richards, are doing what they can to continue providing comforting and nourishing food to the students each day.

Masks come off at lunch at Garden City Elementary School, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, extra precautions are in place.

“Throughout this entire time, Keri and Barb have (gone) above and beyond to make sure our kiddos have good, healthy meals,” said Grenada principal/superintendent GingerLee Charles. “They revamped their entire program and procedures in order to minimize risk and still provide meals. We have had to get creative in solving some logistical obstacles, but Keri has done an outstanding job ... She and Barb truly care about our kids and community.” 

Patti, the school's food service director, said she is proud to give the students “a little bit of normalcy during this crazy time.” 

Patti said she enjoys working with her sister; they have a wonderful shorthand and familiarity with one another which helps them be efficient in the duties. 

They both start their day early in the morning, getting breakfasts ready, like French toast sticks, oatmeal, and breakfast burritos. Patti said they follow strict safety and cleaning measures as they prepare the food. This includes constantly cleaning surfaces and constantly washing hands.  Since students now eat their food in the classrooms or outside when the weather cooperates, they put the food in coolers and containers, which are then delivered to each classroom. 

Once breakfast is done, they get ready for lunch. This week's lunches include a barbecue pork sandwich, cheesy chicken over rice, cheeseburger and fries, and corn dog nuggets. 

While they may see the kids in the hall while out delivering the food to the classrooms, Patti said she misses seeing the kids at the cafeteria each day and interacting with them. When she is able to see them around eating lunch outside, it makes her day. 

“I like it when we see them on the grass eating with their classmates,” Patti said. “They are still giggling and being happy.” 

Grenada Elementary School students sit far enough away for social distancing guidelines.

While they are making the best of the situation, Patti said she can’t wait for the day when the kids' voices fill the cafeteria once more.

“It's a completely different experience now,” Patti said. “But we are there for the kids, and we are doing the best we can for them.”

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