Utica Community Schools
Mandy Sosnowski, Director of Food and Nutrition Services at Utica Community Schools, says her team has been wonderful in taking on new challenges of school meal prep throughout the pandemic. Schwarzkoff and Duncan Elementary Schools are currently serving 300-400 breakfasts daily. In 2019, Duncan only served about five breakfasts daily. Brankica “Barb” Evovska is the sole food service employee at Duncan Elementary and has been an amazing one-woman show in taking on this enormous increase in daily meals. Sosnowski is truly grateful for dedicated workers like Evovska during this time when it’s harder to find employees. District wide breakfast service has more than doubled, from nearly 51,000 in September 2019 to more than 104,000 in September 2021. Lunches have also increased by approximately 40,000 in the same time period.
Despite a staff shortage, dedication and attention to detail has not waivered, even with the time-consuming effort it takes to pack breakfast bags, deliver breakfast in the classroom and prepare for lunches. They know how difficult it is for students to learn on an empty stomach and are always there to step up and help whenever and wherever possible. Across the district, staff like Sandy Mellado at Schwarzkoff elementary also take into consideration food allergies for students in their buildings. The care that goes into ensuring that students receive not only a nutritious breakfast, but a safe one, is top priority.
In addition to worker shortages, the Utica food service team is also having food and storage space challenges. “Trying to fit so much food in a cooler can be a challenge,” said Sosnowski. “We are also finding it hard to find places to store all of the extra food needed to fill these demands. These schools were not built to make this many meals.” Despite these challenges, Sosnowski says they are pushing through and finding ways to run successful meal programs for its students.
The food services team at Utica Community Schools will continue to impact their students’ lives by staying dedicated and determined to provide meal programs with healthy food options. The staff takes solace in knowing their community is confident in them and knows they will always supply food for their students.