In the beginning, there were children – hungry children.
Author: Liliana Castañeda de Rossmann, Ph.D., PA VP
And the teachers and the Hausmeister were able to feed them. Then more children came, and came, and came – all of them hungry. And the teachers and the Hausmeister were unable to feed all of them in the allotted time. So, naturally, parents got involved and managed to bring (some) order into the chaos of the lunch line. And the children were fed, meals weren't wasted, parents filled out their volunteer hours on Parent Booker, and everyone lived happily ever after. The end.
Such is the tale of the task of providing optional hot lunches to students at GISSV. While at the start it seemed like a good idea to contract with one of the Bay Area's many lunch caterers so that students could have a hot midday meal, as more parents enjoyed the convenience, the logistics soon proved to be a weak link into the supply chain management. A growing number of kids expecting that hot meal coupled with an insufficient number of grown-up hands to distribute their customized lunch made for a difficult situation. What with the increasingly long lines, students were unable to finish their meals before the end of recess. Some opted to play instead of standing in line and their meals went unclaimed, wasted at the end. Parents, understandably, had misgivings about paying for lunches that either didn't get eaten or didn't get picked up in the first place. To meet the challenge, parents Sheila Muto and Anja Seibt invited other parents to join them to "become the change they seek in the world" and the Hot Lunch Volunteers Program was born.
Years later, one such volunteer parent is Loreta Hanke, whose children have been at GISSV since August 2016. She heard about the volunteer opportunities at GISSV and looked for a spot that fit in her daily timetable. Hot Lunch was perfect, since she also lives near the school. "It is nice because, with time, you start to recognize all the kids!" What kind of advice would she give to parents? "First of all, tell your kid if they have hot lunch that day or not, because some really miss the meal or think they don't have anything! I try to look for them, but it is not always possible," due to the time constraints. If a hungry young one comes looking for a lunch that was not requested for that day, volunteers such Loreta and afternoon club teacher Jutta Cottarel, who also coordinates the program, sometimes are able to retrieve one of the unclaimed lunches or snacks to avoid having a "hangry" little one in their hands, but it is not always possible. "Jutta is just amazing! I like to work with her and chat – I could do it every day, just for the company," says Loreta.
The Hot Lunch volunteer list of duties might look something like this: arrive 10 to 15 minutes early to ensure the tables are set up. Compare the list of contracted lunches with the actual packages, which are labeled with the child's name, class, and menu choices. Ensure the name is easily visible to the students. "The labeling systems used by the previous providers did not make for efficient distribution," says Anja Seibt. "It took MyGreen Lunch several iterations but now it is working well." Additionally, as the school staff wanted to ensure satisfaction, they sent out several surveys that yielded insights into important areas for improvement. In addition to the survey results, word of mouth has been a powerful inspiration for parents to use the services. "When we remodeled our kitchen, we didn't have the ability to prepare lunches at home," says Margie Goebel. "Since our kids had friends who always got the hot lunch, I decided to order it while the kitchen was a mess. It made not being able to cook almost bearable," she adds.
As this year, the Hot Lunch volunteers are a committed lot who nonetheless welcome more helping hands. Again, Anja Seibt invites parents, whether they work outside the home, work from home, or work at home, to "take their lunch hours to do this, visit with other parents, and spend some time with their kids." This tale indeed has a happy ending.