Teays Valley school cafeteria workers kept students fed through pandemic


ASHVILLE, Ohio (WCMH) — Cafeteria employees throughout the Teays Valley Local School District have worked hard over the last year to be certain no student goes hungry. District leaders are now calling these dedicated workers the “unsung heroes” of the pandemic.

“Aww, the kids, I love their sweet little faces,” said Jordyn Eplin, who has been a member of the district’s kitchen staff for six years. “Our staff here is amazing. I wouldn’t want to work anywhere else.”

A staff that showed up willingly a year ago at the onset of the pandemic when others could stay home.

“On a daily basis, it was much crazier, bagging everything up,” Eplin said. “A lot of bags were made, lots of food was going out.”

The entire staff braved the uncertainty of the novel coronavirus in order to meet the needs of the children they serve.

“But luckily, the whole staff here helped out,” said Tammy Aldenderfer, a 10-year kitchen staff employee. “They all pitched in — the aids, principal, secretary, custodians. We set everything, and they helped bag everything up and it was amazing.”

They say it was a true Viking team effort to make certain no child would go hungry. Before welcoming students back to the cafeteria, the kitchen staff drastically changed the daily operations to keep everyone safe.

“Mask, gloves, kids come through each line, we make sure we wipe it down, we don’t let them touch any of the food, everything is put on the tray,” Aldenderfer said.

Plexiglass barriers divide the students at the assigned tables, sanitization stations are readily available, and staff aids come around to help the students, so they can stay socially distant.

“You know, face forward, face your food, don’t turn around, those kinds of things,” Eplin said.

“A custodian takes the trash cans around, so kids aren’t all bunched up and it works out well that way,” Aldenderfer added.

As school leaders recognize these cafeteria workers as unsung heroes, they said they are simply glad to see the children back smiling and eating in-person again.

“The kids, the staff, everybody’s great here,” Aldenderfer said.

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