SC school districts see shortage of food service workers, volunteers needed

VIDEO: State asking for volunteers to help feed students

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The South Carolina Department of Education is working to gather a list of potential volunteers to keep children fed across the state while classrooms are closed.

The department is working with The United Way of South Carolina to establish a database of people who could step in and fill gaps in service, as needed.

“We’re concerned about the spread of COVID-19 and the fact that entire staffs could be in voluntary quarantine or isolation or quarantine and isolation or unfortunately sick, and that those teams could go down and that we would not have people in place to provide meals for children,” Director of Health and Nutrition Ronald Jones said.

Currently, only 30 candidates have applied, however SCDE officials would like to have a list of several hundred names.

“It’s important that we do it now, that we push it now, because we are going to have needs sooner than we know it. We are just trying to have…people available when the need arises. It’s a very fluid situation. We don’t know when we’d need these people. We don’t even know if we will need these people, but we need to have available bodies in the event that we need a good, viable plan B.”

Only 66% of the state’s 8,000 food service workers are ready, willing, and able to work right now, according to Jones.

“When we look at reasons why they couldn’t work, some of it was childcare. Some of it was health related. Those issues are certainly stepping in the way of some workers,” Jones said. “We need workers to step in and do basic food preparation tasks, I would not call it a lot of heavy cooking. Packing of boxed lunches, packing of boxed breakfasts, being available to make sure that food is in the right place at the right time for children when they need it.”

If you are over the age of 21, would like to volunteer in a school district, and have not experienced any symptoms of illness in the past 14 days, you can follow the step by step to register:

1. Go to www.VolunteerSC.org, scroll down, and click view details under the ongoing need entitled "Statewide - School Meal Preparation and Distribution."

2. Scroll down again and click the blue "Respond" tab in the bottom right corner.

3. Potential volunteers will then need to provide information to create an account if you are not already registered. The system will ask for basic contact information, counties you are willing to volunteer in, and if you have experienced any symptoms of illness in the past 14 days. After entering the required information, please make sure that you complete the registration process by clicking the blue "Submit Need Response" tab in the bottom left of the page. Please note: It is crucial that you provide accurate information during the registration process.

4. After registering, a confirmation email will be sent and if needed, a representative will contact you in the near future regarding scheduling.

Questions can be emailed to Ben Sease at bsease@ed.sc.gov or call 803-667-7065.

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