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PCSD Nutrition Services Earns State Recognition

Nutrition Services February 5, 2021

Parma City School District’s Nutrition Services Department takes pride in providing high-quality meals for families during this difficult time, and their hard work has not gone unnoticed.

Recently, the department was named the Children’s Hunger Alliance Summer Meal Program District of the Year!

“It’s wonderful to receive this recognition,” PCSD Nutrition Services Supervisor Robert Gorman expressed. “The staff has worked extremely hard, and they deserve it. They have done an outstanding job in the pouring rain, extreme heat and now the freezing cold snow. And it’s not just my team, it’s been a collective group effort of administrators and volunteers of the Parma City School District working together.”

Founded in 1970, Children’s Hunger Alliance is a statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to ending childhood hunger, according to information from their website. They partner with organizations throughout Ohio to provide nutritious meals to at-risk children who need them most.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Nutrition Services has been providing seven breakfasts and seven lunches to over 1,500 children a week. As they approach the one-year mark of food distribution, they are closing in on providing one million meals.

“I’m just really proud of the team, and I’m proud of the meals we have been able to provide for the community,” Gorman added. “I really like how we have been able to implement a lot of local companies, local foods and local produce into these meal distributions. We are not only helping our families, but we are also supporting our local businesses in our community and local farmers.”

The Greater Cleveland Food Bank has been instrumental in the twice a week distribution program, as well as local businesses like Dough Go’s, Perla Pierogies and Spice Field Kitchen. Nutrition Services gives out hundreds of gallons of milk each week and receives 35 to 40 pallets of food from the Greater Cleveland Food Bank.

“Supporting locally-grown and locally-made has always been close to my heart,” Gorman shared. “I truly believe local foods taste better. I also think it’s important to help out the local economy.”

“At the beginning of the pandemic, believe it or not, food was very hard to come by. So, a lot of our partners were really able to help us out,” Gorman further added. 

There is an educational aspect to the meal distribution program, such as sending out recipes, teaching students where their food is coming from, and how to grow their own food.

For example, the program partnered with the Parma Council of PTAs in the summer to provide families with tomato plants to grow their own tomatoes.

“All summer long I would get photos and emails of students growing their own tomatoes and harvesting their tomatoes,” he said. “It was so satisfying and so cool to see that, and it was great to be able to help another organization in our district.”

Farm to table initiatives have always been important to Gorman, and he continues to find ways to implement them not only in schools but also at home.

“I believe students should know where their food comes from, how it is grown, how it is harvested, and what it looks like before it is made into something,” Gorman expressed. “When kids know how it's produced, where it came from and if they even grow it themselves, they are more likely to eat it.”

Looking to the future, when students are back in the buildings full time and it is safe to do so, Gorman said he will be happy to see the salad bars back for students to enjoy.

“Something else I am really proud of is working with Oberlin Food Hub to offer hydroponic lettuce, heirloom cherry tomatoes, multicolor carrots, whole watermelons and multicolor beans,” he shared. “The more excitement you can generate over fruits and vegetables, the more likely students are going to want to learn more about them and want to try them.”

Until then, Gorman and his team, with the support of district volunteers, will keep the meal distributions going strong.

“I get emails all the time about how much this has helped our families and how much we are impacting the people of our community and our surrounding communities,” he further described. “It’s a team effort. We have to get through this together.”