School Food on the Frontlines: It’s been a COVID year for Scott and his video “career”!

Scott Anderson, has been the Food Service Director in Madison County Schools, Kentucky, for 6 years. Before moving into School Nutrition, Scott had years of school experience as a teacher, assistant principal and principal. Madison County Schools has about 12,000 enrolled students and is 100 percent CEP. Pre-pandemic their ADP was approximately 75 percent at breakfast and 80 percent at lunch. When schools closed in March 2020, Madison County immediately switched to a daily drive-thru distribution model – or as Scott calls it “feeding cars” – with a couple of meals at a time (at least one being a hot meal). The next pivot was a two-month period of delivering meals by bus (15 daily routes) which became a logistical nightmare. In May 2020 they switched back to having parents come to them, with their one Street EATZ bus delivering throughout the city of Richmond, Kentucky. They began to focus on high quality meal kits that families could prepare at home, including take-and-bake Build Your Own Pizza Friday and crockpot meals, as well as all-you-need-ingredients for cookouts and porch picnics.

Madison County Pizza Kits being enjoyed at home

Currently about half of the district elementary and middle students are in-person and half are virtual, while high school is still on independent study. Meals are served to everyone in school with 90 percent eating breakfast and 100 percent enjoying lunch. Weekly meal packages including CACFP suppers are distributed from 4 to 6 on Tuesday afternoons (about 3-5,000 per week). Since the COVID-19 closures began, the district as served over 2 million meals, currently about 150,000 and 160,000 meals per week counting in-school and distribution to families.

Meals served in-school and distributed to virtual learners

What was the biggest challenge that you had to overcome in the past year?

Scott mentioned two interrelated challenges: The first was retraining the over 100 departmental employees who were very proud of home cooked meals they prepared and served to students. Daily contact between students and staff were very important to both – and gone during school closures. During COVID-19 employees had to be trained to prepare new products, like frozen meals to be baked at home and meal kits. On the customer side, families were accustomed to gourmet-quality, house-made meals for their children at school. They had to be convinced that the meals were worth coming to pick up. Marketing to the community became very important – Scott has leveraged the video possibilities on Facebook to show the visual quality of their food. His videos are open, transparent and folksy – and a new video can directly increase participation when it starts to level off a bit. The Madison County Food Service FB page now has over 5,500+ followers with lots of engagement!

Scott Anderson use videos to share everything about Madison County Food Service. Here is talks about new cafeteria tables.

What achievement are you the proudest of in the past year?

Scott is most proud of his team – how they stepped to embrace a job that was not exactly what they had signed up for. They love kids and have been working straight through for a year – including summer – to serve students the best meals possible. The department has been recognized with three awards but the most important thing is that they are doing it for kids.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Madison County Food Service have been “Team Essential”

What innovation have you made that you will continue using in the future?

While Scott recognizes that his department has gotten good at feeding virtual learners and that take-and-bake options may continue in the future, he honestly just wants to get back to doing what they did before COVID-19, like baking all their own bread.

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