The coronavirus shut down schools across the country but some school services can’t be delivered remotely.
You can’t serve lunch over Zoom.
On a regular non-pandemic school day, the National School Lunch Program provides free or low-cost meals to nearly 30 million kids. As the people who work in school nutrition are aware with skyrocketing unemployment, students may go hungry.
For so many families here in the Quad Cities and across the country, school meal programs are essential — and so are the employees who deliver those meals.
This week’s nomination for our Remarkable Women of the Quad Cities contest is “Ms. Sam.”
Consider Samantha Sparrow a modern-day lunch lady.
Sure, she provides healthy delicious meals to the students at Davenport Community Schools, but this award winning school chef teaches as well as feeds.
“If there is a student who is sad, she will stop, bend down and have a conversation with them until they feel better,” said Maureen Dolan, a teacher at Children’s Village West.
“Some of the kids need that extra love and support — even if it’s just a, ‘Hi, how’s your day going?’ Sparrow said. ‘Oh I see your frowning, is there something I can do to make your day better?’”
Ms. Sam prepares 110 meals a day at Children’s Village West and some lunches require individual attention.
“Some of them I have to make sure it’s not too runny or thick so they choke,” Sparrow said. “Some of them just need that extra protein in there and I gotta make sure it’s in there.”
Thousands of schools across the country were forced to go through a soft closure during the pandemic, but most — including the Davenport Community School District — were still open for lunch, drive-thru or walk-up style.
Ms. Sam knows not all students can make it to the meal distribution site, so after work she volunteers — hand-delivering them herself.
“A lot of the families are struggling because of COVID and don’t have transportation and they want to make sure their kids have food in their belly,” Sparrow said. “I don’t want any kid to go hungry.”
The pandemic is making Ms Sam and others look at her job in a different way…
Did she know she was essential? Probably not..
But now she knows she’s essential to the kids and teachers at Davenport schools.
“She’s just a part of our school family,” Dolan said. “She really just blends in and loves the kids.”
I spent a couple hours in that school and I saw dozens of classes walk by.
Every student said hi to Ms. Sam.
Next Tuesday, we’ll continue to introduce you to Remarkable Women in the Quad Cities.