Insider Look at Wayne Valley’s Meal Services

When the COVID-19 pandemic first struck in March 2020, Nutrition Director and Sodexo liaison, Michael Schmitt could scarcely have predicted how it would change the Wayne Township Public Schools’ meal services.

Right before the pandemic, Mr. Schmitt was celebrating the successful adjustment of his staff to the new block scheduling at Valley and Hills. In order to accommodate all students who needed to buy lunch during the unit lunch, Sodexo opened several new locations around Wayne Valley. In addition to the kitchens operating through the three cafeterias, the main kitchen—located between the sophomore and junior cafeteria—became more easily accessible to students. Other kiosks include one near the freshman cafeteria, one in the small gym, and one in the hallway between the small and main gym. Almost two years later, these kiosks can still be found in these locations.

But after conquering block scheduling, Sodexo had a new adjustment to make: how would the pandemic impact how students received their meals? The answer: Wayne Valley would guarantee students one free meal per day. Especially in the face of the changing circumstances (and the changing financial situations that families face as a result of the pandemic), Mr. Schmitt reflects, “If I have the opportunity to give kids a meal for free, why wouldn’t I take it?”

Students can cash in their daily free meal either at breakfast, which is available starting around 7:00, or at lunch, which is the more popular option. The free breakfast can also be grabbed during a study hall period. In order to satisfy all students, Mr. Schmitt and Sodexo work to supply a variety of meals, including vegetarian options. Mr. Schmitt also emphasizes the dynamic nature of Wayne Valley’s food services; if students request a certain meal, he can make it available in the kitchen. 

Mr. Schmitt also offers advice to students who seek lunch after the morning lab period ends at 10:47, recommending that they visit the main kitchen: “There are always a bunch of different options there, even if you’re coming from lab.” Typically the kiosks get the busiest during the start of the lunch block making it hard to keep everything out there, but Schmitt reassures that the main kitchen is always being restocked–especially the bagel bags as he’s noticed those have been “a fan favorite.” 

Ultimately, Mr. Schmitt is unsure as to whether or not free lunches will return for the 2022-2023 school year, but he is grateful for his adaptable staff across the township, who have enabled him and Sodexo to continue catering to the needs of all students. Although the circumstances are constantly changing, Mr. Schmitt remains optimistic, and looks forward to seeing students in the cafeterias each day. “Safety is paramount,” he concludes emphatically. “For now, we’re here, and we’re going to make the best of it.”