How Sodexo is Keeping Fort Worth ISD Students Fed During a Tumultuous School Year
When K-12 classes went online over a year ago due to COVID-19, students across the country had to not only study online but also know where their next meal might be coming from.
As the Fort Worth Independent School District (FWISD) prepares to welcome students and faculty back to the classrooms for the summer and fall semesters, Sodexo, one of the largest food companies in the country, is helping FWISD coordinate a successful and safe Return to schools for students, families and teachers.
“We’re trying to do everything we can. Understanding education is a top priority for the district, ”said Eric Bankhead, vice president of operations at SodexoMAGIC. “The last thing you should worry about is how you will feed the students.”
Planning for the 2020-2021 academic year was made difficult by the introduction of several educational models, with some students at ISD choosing to stay online, some returning to class and others experiencing a hybrid approach. For the local students, Sodexo worked with area managers and builders to develop unique structures for each school. To help provide food to students learning remotely, Sodexo strategically opened about 26 locations across the district where students could pick up meals throughout the week.
The main changes in COVID-19 were the way meals are prepared and served to students. Before Sodexo returned to the kitchen, Sodexo changed its health and safety protocols to incorporate personal protective equipment, social distancing, and improved sanitation. The meals were then packed in to-go containers with disposable cutlery.
When the school board met to discuss operations during COVID-19, decisions were made not only in accordance with the school district, but also in accordance with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Texas Education Agency.
Working with the school district, Bankhead says, “It’s our job to figure out how we fit into this model, to make sure we can do it safely, and that we don’t hinder the student’s education, but still make sure the students get quality meals. “
For almost two years, Sodexo has been providing catering services to more than 84,000 students annually in the more than 130 K-12 schools of the FWISD. Prior to the pandemic, Bankhead said, Sodexo was providing more than 81,000 meal equivalents per day to students across the district.
“We succeeded because we have an incredible team that was ready to change and because we made a great partnership with the school district,” says Bankhead. “Good leadership and partnerships make it a lot easier.”