At this time last year, Shannon Vega was running around the Cabrillo High campus five days a week. After arriving 6 a.m. to prepare breakfast, the Nutrition Services Supervisor 3 and her staff made sure students could get food at 21 different points of service.
“It was a nonstop day for sure,” Vega said. “We were hustling all over campus from the minute we walked in to the minute we left in the afternoon.”
Of course, nothing is like last year for Long Beach Unified School District employees, and the entire Nutrition Services department is adjusting as fewer students are coming to campus to get free meals. Vega said she typically served between 800 and 1,000 lunches on a regular school day. Now it’s only 60-80 lunches a day.
“I’m really not sure why,” Vega said. “Some of it may be that the online schooling schedule only allows them a half hour for pickup. Finding a way to get to campus could be difficult, and they may be getting food at campuses closer to their homes. Really I think the inconvenience of them not being here right where the food is probably has the most impact.”
Vega and her staff now come to campus in the morning and prepare three meals at once. They recently expanded the pickup time from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at a table near the front of campus. Because the food is prepared so early, a lot of it is not cooked and comes with heating instructions.
“Parents can come pick up the meals for their students if they have a student ID or other form of identification,” Vega said. “And they don’t need to be a student here at Cabrillo or in the LBUSD. We’re providing food for all of the children in this community.”
The LBUSD also ended up donating a lot of food to local organizations in the spring when everything shut down due to COVID-19. Now the department has drastically decreased its order size from the Nutrition Center central kitchen. That warehouse depends on Vega and other school Nutrition Services supervisors to give an accurate count so food doesn’t go to waste.
Vega, 50, knows the district well after attending Cleveland Elementary, Bancroft Middle and Lakewood High. She’s worked in Nutrition Services for 10 years after she started as a three-hour part-time employee.
“I really didn’t have any expectations,” Vega said. “I was looking for a job that would allow me to still be a mom and be present with my kids. I really had no idea what I was getting myself into.”
Over the last decade, Vega has worked at seven different LBUSD schools before taking the supervisor position at Cabrillo where they’re now getting creative with pickup options for families. A parent or student can come on Monday, Wednesday or Friday and pick up meals for two days.
“So a student can get their Monday and Tuesday meals on Monday, and we also added a full meal for Saturday,” Vega said. “We just want it to be as convenient for families as possible. They don’t even have to go to their school, people can try different sites that might be closer to home or more convenient.”
Vega and her staff just started providing meals for the Cabrillo sports teams when they’re practicing on campus.
“They have been very helpful feeding our kids after training in the mornings,” Cabrillo boys’ soccer coach Pat Noyes said. “The kids have been very appreciative. We’re happy that the football team is also going to be fed as well now.”