Standing in line outside East Hartford’s Mayberry Elementary School Friday, Omyra Wilson whispered instructions in her young daughter, Naomi’s ear. With a confident smile, Naomi walked away, toward a table lined with dozens of brown paper bags. Before grabbing one, Naomi did as her mother instructed, handed a card and gift to those who packed it.
May 1 is National School Lunch Hero Day and the Wilsons wanted to be sure to thank those who’ve taken care of them over the past two months.
“I think they love us and they care,” said Naomi, showing her appreciation for the food workers who pack her lunch every weekday.
Although schools have been closed since March, food workers around the state have continued to work. Their recognition as “School Lunch Heroes” this year, has taken on additional significance.
“They’re great people,” said Kevin Stringer, who was picking up food for his daughter. “They’re heroes on a whole other level.”
At 10 different sites around the city, East Hartford Public Schools says it has distributed an estimated 50,000 meals since schools closed.
“These ladies have been out rain and shine. Through the wind and the rain. Every single day, making sure these students have food,” said Shari Staeb, general manager of food, for East Hartford Public Schools.
It’s in school kitchens around the state where the school lunch heroes display their superpowers - coming in early, packing hundreds of lunches and breakfasts. Instead of wearing a cape, they dawn a mask, providing a valuable service for their community.
“We’re doing this program for the children. It just makes me so excited. Getting up in the morning is not a problem,” said Lisa Betts, a food worker at Pitkin Elementary School.
Workers we spoke with today’s conditions amidst the coronavirus crisis are a bit scary. Their efforts though, are not being overlooked.
“It means that they care, I think more than anything that they’re here providing lunches for families in need,” said Omyra Wilson.
Those families include the Wilsons, as young Naomi looks forward to her lunches every day.
“There’s patties, and cornbread. There’s Chinese Food,” said Naomi Wilson with a brilliant smile.
It’s the enthusiasm of Naomi, and thousands of other students, providing these school lunch heroes, with plenty of motivation.
“You do it for the children,” said Dana Tierinni, a food service worker for nearly 30 years. “You do it for the people that need it and I wouldn’t do it any other way.”