Feeding Newtown Public School Families In Need
Whitsons Culinary Group Food Service Director Joseph Stango and District Chef Nicole Demers were about six hours into their day and distributing food to one person at a time at Newtown High School on March 30 — and it was only 10 am.
“Have a good day,” Demers said while placing an armful of white bags on a table for a woman to pick up. Despite the crisp, wet air, smiles were exchanged. The table was blocked off to maintain distance and Demers wore gloves when handling the bags.
As individual families drove up, a sign detailed how to pull up, get out of the car, and go up to the table to collect food. With school buildings closed, this is the new system designed to get Newtown Public School families in need, and those feeling extra pressures due to the current environment, the food they need for their students.
As previously reported in The Newtown Bee, Whitsons Culinary Group, which is the food service provider for Newtown Public Schools, began overseeing the new food program on March 18. Superintendent of Schools Dr Lorrie Rodrigue said recently that Whitsons Culinary Group’s employees are working under the “strictest precautionary measures,” and online surveys are used to determine how much food families need.
The food provided to families on Monday were designed to cover lunches for Monday to Wednesday. Another pickup day on Wednesday would cover lunches for Thursday and Friday.
Between the three sites — Newtown High School, Newtown Middle School, and Head O’ Meadow Elementary School — where food is being distributed, Stango said Whitsons Culinary Group made and distributed 750 sandwiches on March 30. They were set to make another 500 sandwiches two days later on April 1.
“I think it is going great,” Demers said, adding, “we’ve gotten a lot of really good feedback on it [from families].”
Stango said many people have expressed gratitude that the food program is an option.
A typical school day had the Whitsons Culinary Group team members arrive an hour later, at 5 am, “but because of the abundance of sandwiches and the lunches that they get, we come a little earlier,” Stango said. “We do it for the community.”
Since the new food service program began on March 18, Stango said the number of families needing lunches increased from around 150 to 250.
“It’s all fresh made product. Nothing is brought in,” Stango said, adding that the Boar’s Head deli meat is sliced fresh and served with fresh vegetables and fresh fruit. The prepared sandwiches options on Monday included ham, turkey, and buffalo chicken.
“We’re glad we could help the community out when they need it,” said Stango. “Whatever the community needs we are here for [them].”
And with another “Have a good day,” Demers handed more bags filled with food to another person who pulled up, hopped out of a car, and smiled as they collected the white bags filled with sandwiches.