Our Unsung Heroes: A-W Lunch Crew

Posted April 22, 2020 at 5:51 pm

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By Julie Ann Madden

The first Friday in May is School Lunch Hero Day, dedicated to those men and women who make the cafeterias and the schools a better place to be.

For many children, the cafeteria is the first place they enter on a school day.

During this Coronavirus Pandemic, lunch time may be the only time area children see the Westerner lunch crew.

As soon as Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds recommended Iowa schools close on March 15, A-W officials began brainstorming how to keep the district’s children from going hungry.

A-W Business Manager Mandy McCully applied for funding through the state’s Summer Food Service Program but realized that it would take some time for funding approval.

A-W’s administrative team appealed to the community for donations to begin providing free breakfasts and lunches to children, ages 0 – 18, immediately.

On March 24, the lunch crew made their first breakfast and lunch meals and drivers delivered them to the pickup sites — one in Akron and one in Westfield plus meals were delivered to rural families living on A-W school bus routes.

“We’re very fortunate in our towns to have people willing to donate to feed our kids,” said A-W Food Service Coordinator Tina Milbrodt, explaining they are giving out approximately 200 breakfasts and 200 lunches each week day, Monday through Friday. “We have a really good administrative team — Mandy, Randy (Collins), Michelle (Henrich) and Derek (Briggs). They deserve a lot of the credit.”

Now, the meals are fully reimbursed through the state’s Summer Food Services Program.

Hot Lunch Secretary Kristin Blake mans the phone, taking meal orders from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., and then completes all the state-mandated paperwork for cost reimbursement.

The lunch crew creates the meal bags which are delivered to the Wesley United Methodist Church in Akron between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. to individual stops in Westfield and on the A-W school bus routes. A-W transportation staff, teachers and volunteers deliver the meals.

The Lunch Crew includes Tina Milbrodt, Tiffany Beyer, Jo Ann Decker and Deb Pryor with lunch workers Brandie Raub, who originally helped, Brittnee Doll, Rachel Moravek and Linda Rolfes on standby to fill in as needed.

The lunch crew comes in earlier than they did during the normal school day to make sure the meals are all ready by delivery time, said Milbrodt. Once they made cinnamon rolls — a special treat as not all kids get something like that at home.

The crew tries to serve a hot lunch — hamburgers or hot dogs — a couple times a week.

“We could be sitting home doing nothing,” said Milbrodt, “but we’re all here for the kids.”

“This is something the kids need right now,” she said. “They need this little bit of normalcy. Seeing the lunch ladies and getting a breakfast or lunch they would have had had they been in school.”

“My workers enjoy it,” said Milbrodt, noting Tiffany delivered meals, dressed in a hot dog costume one day. “They are thankful they still have a job. They’re thankful they can come in and visit a little bit — they have that normalcy in their lives as well.”

Milbrodt added a special thank you to all the teachers and teachers’ aides who have been helping in the kitchen as well as delivering meals.