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Essential: Patsy Kennemer and the Moore County school nutrition staff

{Editor’s Note: This is the sixth of a multi-part series highlighting all the essential folks in Moore County. Readers nominated each interview subject. To nominate someone, email editor@lynchburg-times.com.}

School nutrition staff (from left to right) Edde Warwick, Patsy Kennemer, Sybil Dye, Tammy Weddington, Helen Neece, Lisa Locke, Lynette Ivey, JoAnn Bean, Susan Thomas, and Joy Byrom have prepared over 9,000 meals since March 17. {Photo Credit: Stacy Preston}

For School Nutrition Supervisor Patsy Kennemer and the Lynchburg Elementary school nutrition staff life looks very different today than it did just two months ago. Before, their weekdays typically filled with the sounds of student chatter and the comfort of daily routine. They’d come in early, get their tasks accomplished, and then reset for the next school day. Then the COVID-19 health crisis hit and local officials closed Moore County schools after a recommendation from Tennessee Governor Bill Lee.

Today, no students roam the halls of Lynchburg Elementary. There are no filled classrooms, no recesses, and no buses lining up in the afternoon. Even so, Kennemer says the school nutrition staff is busier than ever. They went from preparing just 60 meals each day to over 200. Students pick up meals on Mondays and Thursdays. On those days, student receive not only a hot lunch but also pre-wrapped meals for the following days.

“It feels surreal now going to work and not hearing the laughter of the children echoing through the cafeteria,” says Kennemer. “But our day-to-day tasks are still about the same at the school.”

School Nutrition Supervisor Patsy Kennemer
School Nutrition Supervisor Patsy Kennemer {Photo Credit: Stacy Preston}

For many students, lunches to go are an opportunity to get out of the house, see familiar faces, and maintain a sense of normalcy. For others, it’s a saving grace during these uncertain times.

“I have heard many parents say they are so thankful for this service because they have lost jobs or income just isn’t coming in like it used to,” says Kennemer. “This helps people who normally don’t have issues with feeding their children.”

Kennemer says LES cafeteria changes aren’t just for students. She’s also working hard to keep her staff safe. They reworked their kitchen layout and the meal pick up area to keep staff separated.

When we ask her about the moment she felt most essential, she demurs and instead gives much of the credit to her dedicated staff.

“There are truly many people who are deserving of the title of hero,” she says. “Since we began serving meals on March 17, we have served over 9000 meals. I know firsthand the amount of time, dedication, and preparation that it takes to make it all happen.”

She says some of her staff stand out front offering a warm smile and a hot meal … even in the pouring rain … while others works behind the scenes preparing food as quickly as possible but they all deserve recognition for the outstanding public service they are doing.

When we asked what part of “normal” life she and her staff miss most, she answers immediately.

“The daily interaction we have with kids … it’s great to start your day with a smile from a child.” •

{The Lynchburg Times is an independently owned and operated newspaper that publishes new stories every morning. Covering Metro Moore County government, Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Nearest Green Distillery, Tims Ford State Park, Motlow State Community College, Moore County High School, Moore County Middle School, Lynchburg Elementary, Raider Sports, plus regional and state news.}

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