One elementary school’s gym was swarmed with students and families whose faces were covered in ear-to-ear smiles and leftover crumbs from a Thanksgiving lunch with all the fixings.
“It’s a really great thing to do,” said Isabel Mancini, whose daughter, Brianne Mancini, attends second grade at Kinsey Elementary School. “It brings everyone together. Usually, you don’t get to see everybody, so it’s nice to be able to do that."
The Kinsey Elementary School invited its students and their families to a holiday lunch last Thursday.
“We think it’s great,” said Brett Jirsa, whose son is also in second-grade at the school. “We’ve come every year so far.”
More than 550 students and their families were in attendance to get a plate full of stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, a bread roll and, of course, turkey. The students paid their standard lunch fee of $2.50, unless they qualified for free or reduced lunch for the school year. A meal for the students’ guests was $3.75 per adult and $2.50 per child.
“This is for all the parents so they can come in to eat with their kids,” said Southwest Foodservice Excellence Manager Joanne Estes. “It kicks off the holiday season for them.”
The district’s contracted food service company – which has organized the lunch for the last 10 years – prepared meals for 550 people. The company started to run out of food before serving the fourth and fifth graders and had to call their main office to have more sent to the school.
“With all my schools, this has been the biggest year so far since I’ve been here,” said Estes who has worked with SFE for seven years.
Hours before the lunch, RSVP forms, which were sent home with the students a week before the lunch, were still rolling into the school’s office. However, nobody was turned away for not returning the forms.
All 15 FUSD schools held a holiday lunch at some point in November, with Kinsey Elementary School being the last. Staff of SFE, school faculty and community members helped volunteer at the lunches throughout the district.
“It’s awesome that people come to participate, pay and eat lunch with their kids,” said Flora Quanimbtewa, an attendance clerk who has helped serve the students their Thanksgiving food every year for the last 16 years.
The food service company is contracted to serve breakfast and lunch at all FUSD schools and, this year, it started serving dinner at Leupp Public School and Killip Elementary.
Three years ago, the company started the Roving Chef program at three FUSD schools to hold nutrition talks. Recently, through the program, they taught the students how to carve pumpkins and save the seeds.
The food service company also started selling smoothies at all the high schools in the district this year.
“They don’t have to do these things,” said Karen Eberhard, spokeswoman for FUSD. “They are so plugged into our schools…we absolutely love to have SFE be with FUSD because we get very special things like this.”
According to Estes, the food service company also spends a lot of time making sure their food meets the specified guidelines and will make updates to all their online menus so that parents have the most accurate information.
“They are more than just a food service, they care about our kids and what they are eating,” Eberhard said.
“This is for all the parents so they can come in to eat with their kids. It kicks off the holiday season for them.”
--Joanne Estes, manager, Southwest Foodservice Excellence