By: Maureen Pisanick, RD, LD What makes you feel grateful? Perhaps you have prioritized ways to include a daily acknowledgement of those things
that make life worth living - certainly our health, our families, our loved ones (including the furry ones!). Some of us list other gratitude's that rank pretty high - our faith, our service to our communities, our care for our planet, and our support of local farmers and businesses. No matter how simple (the air we breathe) to how profound (a vaccine to halt the pandemic), we can appreciate, celebrate and amplify the power of a simple expression of gratitude!
Driving up Longwood Avenue in Parma Ohio on a crisp November morning, gratitude literally stopped me in my tracks. Bob Gorman, Nutrition Services Supervisor had invited me to visit and watch a curbside distribution, so I jumped at the chance to “roll up the sleeves,” one of my favorite ways to do the work of school nutrition! When I arrived I was immediately met with a sea of cars lining the driveway to the place I intended to park; we all know “look for the loading dock and dumpster” is a key direction to the heart of a school building - the cafeteria. As I parked and walked towards the distribution line, I couldn’t help but think - “wow, they have been doing this since March!” Nine months later the systems are still in play to provide what I was grateful to visit first hand….a well oiled machine of service! From frontline nutrition staff, to support from administration and office staff, the team reminded me fondly of Santa’s workshop - a virtual assembly line of gifts of fresh dairy, produce, breakfast, lunch, shelf stable and backpack bundles all delivered with a smile and a spirit of teamwork.
Bob has rallied his school staff for the community he serves with one goal in mind. “Since we started, we worked hard to build relationships with our community. We asked for families to respond to our google survey to not only measure their interest and need, but to offer education and supportive information to keep our families engaged. We asked and received positive feedback and pictures of our kids enjoying the food and items the families received in our weekly curbside distributions. We made efforts to partner with local businesses to provide items that students loved and helped support our labor to get the meals packed and distributed. We asked and received support from our local food bank, the USDA meal packs, and special offers like tomato plants and seeds during the summer months from partners like Feed our Future. We had participation from our PTA, local COSI and Cleveland Book Bank - if we could add value and resources to our curbside meals we took advantage of any and all offers for our kids and families.” What I witnessed was not only a meal service, but a lifeline of supplies and groceries that filled both the trunks and hearts of the families in the Parma community - gratitude in the form of a winding curbside labor of love!
My story of gratitude is really quite simple. I am grateful for opportunities to serve all of our school clients and students as a passion, not just a career. Each moment offers me a chance to see the epic dedication, resiliency, and care that makes such a profound impact on the lives of so many students and families. Unsung heroes, boots on the ground offering up favorite lunch bundles, local takeover meal experiences, and a variety of fresh produce all to feed students amidst a time of uncertainty and unprecedented pivots. What small role we are able to play to help organize, support, and innovate for, and with, our clients will forever fuel my desire to serve and fill my tank and heart full of gratitude!
From our team to yours, here is your “Caught doing something good” inspired CURBSIDE EMERGENCY KIT full of tips and tricks from Bob and many of our other dedicated professionals making meals a priority for students in our communities. We are not competitive restaurants, and in such, we are a sharing community with hopes to inspire your continued desire to feed no matter what the obstacle, roadblock or fork in the road that you may encounter this school year!
How about it friends? Choose hope, choose happy, choose to put a little GRATITUDE in your ATTITUDE not only this Thanksgiving but in the days to come! We are here - ready to serve and ready to support - and for that we are TRULY GRATEFUL!