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Quality School Meals on Show in Douglas County

​​​​Douglas County connects with parents, families through curbside feeding

The Lion Cub Cafe comes alive at 6:15am at Lithia Springs Elementary, as their School Nutrition Professionals are abuzz with activity, hours before their first students arrive.  Chopping, stirring, steaming, baking… so they begin preparations to offer an impressive array of choices in breakfast and lunch every weekday. 

Their Cafeteria Manager, Randy Jones, says his team operates like a well-oiled machine, working together, sometimes without words but communicating with every movement, where one person takes the baton from the other.  “At the end of our day, all our staff take pride in the food we serve and know how they contributed to it, plus we just have some of the best people” he said, sharing also that his cafeteria is home to two winners in the Georgia School Nutritional Association State Culinary Competition. 

For Executive Director of School Nutrition in Douglas County, Danielle Freeman, it is this winning attitude among the staff, across their school district, that made all the difference in what has been regarded as the most challenging year for School Nutrition Professionals nationwide.  “After 2020 I knew there was nothing my team couldn’t do” she recounted. “We pivoted from in-school service to curbside and became so good at it, that our participation rates have increased over typical levels, with more of our students now returning to schools.” 

Freeman explained that while the changing feeding models were a necessary part of ensuring students had continued access to healthy meals during the pandemic, she saw the meal kits as an opportunity through which the District could demonstrate and advertise the quality of school meals to parents and families.  

“Now parents in the school system have seen up-close what their students are served at breakfast and lunch and they now know, having picked up meals and interacted with our staff, that the school nutrition experience has and continues to evolve.” 

This positive experience was in full flight when State Director for School Nutrition, Dr. Linette Dodson, paid a visit to Lithia Springs Elementary School, on April 20.  And as she moved through the kitchen hall, interacting with every team member, their agency and pride demonstrated the winning attitudes boasted about by their leadership.  The excited faces of students entering the cafeteria, was met with an equal eagerness in the team to offer excellent customer service.  

Dr. Dodson, Mrs. Freeman and Douglas County School Nutrition Coordinator, Ervin Watson, joined the serving line that day, helping students to a menu of Beef and Broccoli, Mozzarella Cheese Sticks, or Nachos with ‘Queso con Carne’.  And at the end of the line, a bubbly Stacie Quin, Food and Nutrition Services Assistant on cashier duties, greeted each student by name.

Quin says she gets immense satisfaction from the anticipation and happiness in her students’ eyes when she recognizes them by name and wishes them a happy birthday.   “They are really good kids! Although it’s our job to keep them fed, we also love them, and they love us right back”, she said.  

The Lithia Springs Elementary School Nutrition team is one of several in their school district that currently offers multiple feeding models, with students learning both in-person and online.  Through curbside delivery on Mondays, Friday bags for virtual school, in-cafeteria service and other innovative ways, Douglas County School Nutrition Executive Director says she and her able team are focused on keeping safe, while feeding students well.