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Passion Overcomes Pandemic Challenges

school kitchen staff

Live Oak Unified School District staff prepare homemade vegetarian penne pasta in their new kitchen for prepackaged meals. Photo courtesy of Leasa Hill.

By the Western Regional Office, Food and Nutrition Service

Like countless schools across the country, the Live Oak Unified School District, about 50 miles north of Sacramento, had to shift their operations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Prior to the pandemic, we were realizing my dream serving meals from scratch,” said Leasa Hill, District Food Services Supervisor. “When the pandemic started, we scrambled, worked harder, longer days, we all shifted duties, locations, environments and made it happen.”

Before the pandemic, Leana’s team was making homemade pizzas, slow cooking pork shoulders and developing a host of new menu ideas with a variety of fresh options. When the pandemic lockdown began, they had to quickly shift their menu to more shelf-stable, prepackaged products.

Throughout it all, Leana says her staff worked harder than ever to get tasty, nutritious food to kids in their district that depend on them.

“My staff has not taken any time off since this pandemic started last March,” Hill said. “They served through every holiday and break that they normally have off and even on Saturdays when pick-up service was offered.”

Leasa said that when she started with the District 10 years ago, she was determined to change the way kids thought about “school food” and to create a place where her colleagues were proud to work and where students were excited to eat. Today, despite the unprecedented challenges the pandemic has thrown their way, Leasa and her staff have come through on that commitment. She credits her staff and their passion with that ongoing success as they continue to deliver child nutrition programs where they’re needed most.


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Page updated: November 22, 2023