Students of South San Francisco Unified School District’s (SSFUSD) adult transition program (ATP) have been helping to prepare and serve meals at schools to help alleviate the effects of a COVID-19-induced staffing shortage that has impacted the district’s pool of substitute teachers, extended care teachers, and food service workers.
“It’s been a great partnership,” said Nutrition Services Supervisor Teri Inocencio. “The students benefit by gaining important life skills that help them build their resumés for work in various industries, and the extra help allows us to keep students fed district-wide.”
The ATP prepares young adults with developmental disabilities or other special needs between the ages of 18 and 22 to live independently and hold down a part-time or full-time job.
As part of the curriculum, ATP students have traditionally been required to gain work experience.
In the past, this meant sending students off campus to find work at places like grocery stores or other local businesses.
However, it soon became more difficult to place ATP students with prospective employers due to the economic dislocations caused by COVID-19.
At the same time, demand for school lunches at SSFUSD increased, as 47% of students began taking advantage of the district’s school lunch program this year compared to 35% in pre-pandemic years.
“We had a need, and we turned inward to fill that need by partnering with ATP students,” said Inocencio. “It’s been a really awesome experience.”
Inocencio said the ATP students prepare pre-packaged items and engage in prep work during class time, before showing up to either El Camino High or South San Francisco High where they work from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM serving food and helping with clean up.
According to Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Ted O, the nutrition services department has been operating at about 30% below capacity with a total of 14 vacant positions.
Of these positions, the school cafeteria positions are the most difficult to fill.
This is because prospective employees must possess ServSafe certification and may only work three to four hours in the middle of the day.