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Cafeteria in Session When School Was Not

Tue, 12/29/2020 - 19:12
From left, Darlene Sargent, Carolyn Fitzgerald, and Melissa Curran.
Durell Godfrey

For Carolyn Fitzgerald, a lifelong resident of East Hampton and a 30-year employee of the East Hampton School District, working in the school cafeteria every weekday from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. was a way to take her mind off the harsh realities of the Covid-19 pandemic.

When school closed to in-person attendance back in March, New York State required districts to continue making breakfast and lunch for the students.

But instead of running a lunch line in school each day, Ms. Fitzgerald and her fellow high school cafeteria workers prepared food for pickups and drop-offs to students who were suddenly learning at home. And instead of providing food only for East Hampton High School students, the cafeteria workers made food for any child who needed it -- regardless of their district or hamlet of residence -- which added up to hundreds and hundreds of meals each week.

"It was actually very well organized," said Ms. Fitzgerald, the high school's cook supervisor. "We even had some people who volunteered . . . so that was nice. It was a jump-start in the beginning, but once we got it down, it went pretty easily."

She said the kitchen crew and volunteers were in good spirits most of the time.

"It's a very good feeling to know that we have families out there in need who we were able to support at a hard time," Ms. Fitzgerald said. "People appreciated it. There were not very many places for them to go, and some people don't get three meals a day. This was quite the accomplishment."

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