( Photo: Broome-Tioga BOCES food service staff dress up in costumes at meal sites to bring cheer to students and families.) 

The COVID-19 crisis is showing that there are heroes all around us.

From medical professionals on the frontlines in hospitals to our neighbors who are donating money and goods and volunteering their time, heroes are all around us.

And even though children are learning from home these days due to social distancing measures, our school nutrition heroes still have been hard at work, risking their health to play the vital role of providing free, nutritious meals.

On May 1, American Dairy Association North East and schools nationwide recognized these heroes during the eighth annual School Lunch Hero Day. This day historically celebrates the school nutrition professionals who help nourish each student who walks into a school cafeteria. But with the world and our nation in the midst of a global pandemic, this year’s celebration took on a whole new meaning and appreciation for those making the sacrifice.

Take for example, registered dietitian Julie Raway and the food services team at Broome-Tioga BOCES. With nearly 40 pick-up sites and numerous other bus drop-off sites, she and the team have been working around the clock to make sure kids in the district are nourished with dairy and other healthy foods. To help ease tensions, the team has been dressing up as superheroes to put smiles on families’ faces as they pick up their meals.

And there’s Christina Feenaughty and the team at Hornell Intermediate School District, who are serving and thoroughly sanitizing nearly 70 meal sites on a regular basis to make sure families are comfortable, and, most importantly, safe, as they come in and pick up their meals.

The examples could go on and on and on, and ADANE is also doing its part to chip in and assist our local school lunch heroes during these challenging times.

ADANE has donated 220 cooler bags to transport dairy products and other foods, along with paper and plastic bags, to numerous school districts throughout the region. Five coolers were also donated by ADANE to schools in Yonkers, which is situated just north of what is epicenter of the pandemic.

The efforts of our local school lunch heroes have also been noticed by professional athletes. NFL players involved with Fuel Up to Play 60 including Kelvin Beachum of the New York Jets, Dalvin Tomlinson of the New York Giants, and Harrison Phillips of the Buffalo Bills have gone to social media give thank you shoutouts to all those heroes who are keeping our kids fed during these uncertain times.

On a national level, GENYOUth, an organization started in conjunction with dairy farmers, is donating $3,000 in grant money per school to assist in school food endeavors during this time as part of the organization’s “For Schools’ Sake” initiative. GENYOUth has already deployed over $1 million in emergency funding and is continuing to accept applications.

As schools continue to need support, ADANE will continue to provide a helping hand. Contact schools@milk4u.org if ADANE can be of any assistance to your food service program.