FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – During the summer months, Fort Wayne Community Schools distribute hundreds of free meals. That’s all done with the help of 55 employees.
Shari VanSumeren spends her summer days feeding kids at Indian Village Elementary. During the school year, she serves as the cafeteria manager at the school. Oftentimes, Shari is on her own serving meals during and after the school year.
Fort Wayne Community Schools explained each of the elementary schools is set up to have only one cafeteria worker on-site combined with using classroom assistants for help at mealtimes.
“I’m definitely hands on with the warming of the food, the ordering, serving, and making sure we have enough food and breakfast that we need,” explained Shari.
While Shari has worked with the school district for more than 20 years, she’s still somewhat new to the free meal program. She’s only in her second year after FWCS tasked her to distribute meals when the pandemic shut down schools in 2020.
“It was a little scary. Because we didn’t know much about COVID. And getting out there with the change of seasons, because literally we were out there during rain, sleet and snow, it was actually pretty rewarding out there. We had so many grateful people coming. And mostly a lot of people were out of our district.”
That experience led to Shari wanting to return for the free summer meal program in 2021. Making her and all the other cafeteria workers Positively Fort Wayne.
“We do know a lot of what we’re giving them is not what they get at home….you don’t really have to tell them what we’re having. They’ve actually said, “I’m just happy to have whatever you’re giving me.” So that is pretty nice, and makes you feel good about working here.”
FWCS in the second week alone, it handed out 8,700 breakfasts and 13,000 lunches at its 20 sites.