Everyone on the Tyson Foods K-12 team is very passionate about our school foodservice operators. When the world shifted in the wake of COVID-19, schools started shutting down with very little time for those who feed our nation’s children to react. They had to completely throw out the way their programs operate and rebuild them overnight. Several have said it was like “building an airplane, while flying it.”

We saw our operators standing tall on the frontlines, putting their own health at risk, doing everything they could to keep feeding the children of their communities. Many of the families in those communities relied on school meals. As businesses shuttered, the financial strain on those families increased, making school meals critical. We quickly mobilized to see what we could do to support our operators. We threw out all our own plans, playbooks and strategies. The priority for us was unanimous across the entire team – help any way we can.

We learned that immediate needs were for curbside drop-off models. We supplied school foodservice programs with items like pop-up tents, ponchos, coolers and to-go bags. A foodservice director in Pasadena wrote us after getting four fully-assembled sheet pan racks saying, “Thank you SO SO SO SO much for this. It is greatly appreciated and a very bright spot in a very not so bright time.”

Then we helped create communications to share with families receiving meals, including cooking instructions, safety guidelines, signs to tell families where to get food and even fun activity sheets to keep kids entertained at home.

Heroes in the Trenches

But we quickly realized the mental and emotional toll happening to our school foodservice operators. They were in the trenches and pouring their heart out with every to-go bag. We had to lift them up and show them how much they were appreciated. So, we turned the mirror on all their efforts and told them that at Tyson, “T” is for “Thank You.”

We created a tribute video using their own words, their own images and their own videos. We sent more than 500 handwritten letters to our operators letting them know how much we appreciate the work they were doing to feed our children. We created buttons, hats, aprons and even facemasks proclaiming our school foodservice operators are HEROES. We shipped them out to dozens of districts all over the country so our operators would know how much we care.

In the weeks that followed, we saw our operators recognized in many media reports, including the cover of TIME magazine. It makes our hearts full to know their mission to feed children is being seen, praised and loved by the communities they serve.

They are heroes. We’re proud to help them serve their mission.

Channel Development Manager, K-12 at Tyson Foods