Kelley Mitchell MS, RD has worked in the Fontana Unified School District as a Nutrition Specialist for almost seven years. When she started, she worked mainly with special diets and menu planning, but her job has shifted a lot in the past year.
Serving around 14,500 students on a weekly basis isn’t the easiest task, but she has stayed ready for anything this year can throw at her. Here’s what she learned:
“Do what works for your district.” At the start of the pandemic, they offered daily pick-up service, but staffing was difficult, and participation was low, so they pivoted to weekly pickup. “Play with it, try it out, and streamline from there to find out what the best fit is for you.”
"The whole world wants grab ‘n go products right now!" Even pre-lockdown, the kids at Fontana loved the brand-names and larger portion sizes of General Mills’ 2OEG cereals. Because Kelley’s team works to provide three meals daily, plus snacks, Nature Valley Soft Oatmeal Rounds came in handy as a popular snack. “They were something new and fun to change up the menu!”
Put whimsy in the workday. “Something that helped the morale of our department was having a Halloween costume competition. We had a lot of participation at our sites, and they all had fun doing it. Some sites continued to dress up for the following holidays, even though it wasn’t a competition anymore!”
Sending home meals for holidays. To accommodate for longer breaks when school isn’t in session, Kelley’s staff preps meal boxes in advance for families to pick up at their curbside distribution sites, packed with a variety of larger format shelf-stable items including boxes of Gold Medal pancake mix. “Chef Monica (from General Mills) had created a flyer of different pancake recipes and we gave that out to families for recipe inspiration!”
What Does the Future Look Like?
Fontana Schools are starting hybrid learning soon, so Kelley is looking forward to seeing how that changes the way she and her team can serve families. “It’s always kind of a gamble–you see how the first week goes and figure it out!”
Follow along with Kelley and the Fontana Unified School District on their Website and on Facebook.