Slices of savory roasted turkey topped with a large scoop of cornbread dressing and gravy, baked macaroni and cheese, green beans seasoned with sweet onions, hot soft dinner rolls, cranberry sauce and scrumptious sweet potato pie were all menu items in today’s school lunch at McDonogh 42 Elementary Charter School. How hard can it be to prepare this particular lunch? It’s the traditional Thanksgiving lunch that everyone has come to expect. At least, everyone who has a fully operating kitchen can expect it. Our school is still trying to get a stove, freezer, steamer, and other basic equipment to move us from a warming kitchen to a cooking kitchen. We are supposed to be on a fast track with the kitchen equipment plans but we’ve been stuck in one spot for the last three weeks. I thought that with the nod from the state superintendent and the attention from the RSD facilities director we’d be well on our way by now. We are not.
I don’t know how Ms. Lipscomb, the cafeteria manager, and the other ladies pulled off that magic act today, but I was one of the lucky people who thoroughly enjoyed the special lunch menu requested by the principal more than a month ago. Today was the students’ last school day prior to the holiday break. Their special treat was the 500 individual 3-inch pies we purchased for the children’s dessert. I brought mine home to have with milk for my midnight snack. I have whipped cream in my refrigerator to add as a topping.
Our children are still living in tough conditions. Some are in trailers; many are living with extended family members; and lots of them are like me, living in a home that’s not fully repaired yet. I can cook Thanksgiving dinner because my kitchen has everything except countertops. Try baking a turkey in a trailer oven. Today’s special menu is the norm for this time of year. Last year, when the school was run by RSD, students complained of being served frozen sandwiches with icicles on the packaging. It was true at times.
Since we don’t have all of our equipment ordered yet, the menus are sometimes repetitive. Lots of pizza, beans and rice, baked chicken, and more pizza are the staples. I was at the school this morning to meet with the transportation vendor, the drivers and the monitors for a progress report on the recent changes we made to their bus routes. As the meeting ended, the company’s CEO remarked on the wonderful smells emanating from the kitchen downstairs. I had him and his friend escorted to the cafeteria for a complimentary lunch and asked the cooks to purchase one for myself also. It was all so delicious. I know the children (and teachers) enjoyed it as much as I did. I wonder what magic they will perform for the Christmas lunch.
The opinions expressed in Starting Over: A Post-Katrina Education are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.