No Waivers...No Worries...Well sort of…

No waivers, no worries, well, sort of…this topic is truly a bittersweet one to reflect upon. I certainly remember feeling this urge of inspiration to write deep into the pandemic on all things resilience and front line heroes in our moments of immense gratitude for curbside feeding. I can still see the relief and pride on the faces of colleagues and kitchen staff alike when we were able in some ways to continue to provide the much needed nourishment that students and families had come to depend on.

So the question I ask myself today is NOW WHAT? With the expiration of national waivers set for June 30, 2022, many of us may be feeling a flood of emotions. Let me highlight some of mine and see if this resonates with you….

Gratitude!

Yep you read that right, I’m choosing to start here for many reasons. The first is that we all still have the honor, duty, and calling to play a major role in the lives of our students by providing nutritious school meals. We are called and employed to one of the largest food supply chains in this country - one that stands to feed 29.6 million students each day in amounts that have reached 4.9 billion annual lunches pre-pandemic. This is not a job for the weak, but by remembering our why and purpose, I am confident that we can find the strength to meet the demands of students with care and compassion in our craft - wholesome meals to fuel healthy lives!

Eagerness!

This one might surprise you as well, but I’m choosing to remain optimistic and excited about the endemic times upon us. I love a good puzzle, and if supply chain gaps have taught us anything it's that the blend of recipes and regulations can be a daily and weekly test of our creativity, our imagination, and our flexibility. But these are all things that end up with some of the most innovative and inspired lunch lines that I have ever seen! Bar concepts, versatile freezer and pantry staples, harvest of the month rotations of fresh produce bars….we have the experience and opportunity to resurrect some of “best of the best” in a time when others might throw in the towel. I come to the menu writing, the staff meeting, and the wellness committee tables once again claiming my seat and leaning into the conversation. You are the nutrition expert in your community - OWN IT!

Compassion!

Personally and professionally we all need to extend some grace to one another. The past two years have increased our anxiety, and led to a decline in mental health with increases in depression and stress for all including our students! If the one thing that students can look forward to is a safe space to be back at school, ready to learn and socialize - healing together as a community they’re going to need to be nourished. We’ve said it time and time again, a hungry student can’t learn! But a student who is struggling with anxiety and depression can’t learn either. Our cafeterias offer a safe haven for many to feel a “touch of home” or a “mom like” respite in the middle of a rigorous day of learning. We have a chance to not only feed the stomachs, but also the souls of these students who look with eager anticipation for a return to the “new normal” of what it means to be a kid growing up within the course of their schooling.

At the beginning of the pandemic I used this acronym G.R.A.C.E for the P.A.C.E and I think I want to share it now as we begin the next era of what we know is sure to be a monumental once in a lifetime school year for our careers!

Grace for the Pace

G- Guidance: seek some, be humble enough to get some, gracious enough to give some!

R- Realistic: set goals but recognize that how you react to the evolving plans will be 90% responsible for how successful you are…. Life is 10% what happens to us, and 90% of how we react to it.

A- Action: be proactive vs reactive in all decisions… REMEMBER even before 2020 the success of our programs relied on our ability to have plan b, c, d… This year we will likely have all the way to x, y and z..but outlining the steps and communicating the plans will be paramount. It’s like riding a bike - we need to get back into the routine and RIDE!

C-Compassion: sympathy and fellowship exists between people based on shared experiences and feelings, embrace this as a common culture to help unite us all in a feeling of fellowship.

E- Empathy: we are all in this together - it takes a village and we aren’t competitive restaurants so lean into your sisterhood of support!

P- Patience: the best definition of the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset, again choosing our reaction with care and composure.

A- Acceptance… Think serenity prayer! Control what you can and let go of things you can’t….and those things will happen so STAY CALM and LUNCH on!

C- Community - we truly are stronger together, leverage peer support to find comfort that you are not alone and your colleagues are here to help!

E- Evolve: embrace the silver linings to the daily “cloud” of change. It urges us to make adaptations that can and will make us stronger, united and who knows creativity and innovation is often born out of necessity.

With all that we have been dealt - the expiration of national waivers, supply chain disruptions, a pandemic - I hope you take some of these words of encouragement into your daily life. Together, we are a strong community. Onward with hope and courage!


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