When Buhler couldn’t serve lunch, rival school McPherson stepped up

Cheyenne Derksen
The Hutchinson News
Rod Nelson with USD 418, left, is next to Shane Hecox with USD 313, right, with a delivery vehicle of food from McPherson. USD 418 stepped up to help USD 313 cook and serve meals at Buhler High School when food service staff needed to quarantine.

Buhler and McPherson schools may be rivals on the field, but they’re partners in education.

When Buhler High School needed help bringing lunch to students at the high school, USD 418 stepped up.

Last Wednesday morning, Buhler High School food staff received word that they all needed to begin quarantining due to close contact with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus.

“Central office personnel figured out how to finish cooking that meal with a food service employee from another school,” said USD 313 superintendent Cindy Couchman. “That afternoon, we called the Kansas (State) Department of Education and they shared some options that other schools did when they were in the same boat.”

McPherson schools have similar staffing challenges amid the pandemic, but food service employees wanted to help.

“All the credit goes to my staff,” said Bill Froese, USD 418 food service director. “We’re already running skeleton crews with quarantines as well.

“They stepped up and said, ‘Yes, we can accommodate.’ We jumped on board and we’re glad we were able to.”

On Thursday and Friday, high school students received sandwiches from Buhler’s food service provider and pizza from a local restaurant.

Starting Monday, McPherson delivered breakfast and lunch to the high school. USD 418 is equipped to transport meals and keep them warm.

“We’re fortunate to have only half as many students each day since we’re on a hybrid schedule,” Couchman said.

The administration team is serving meals as well.

“Kay Cox, Shane Hecox and Donna Kleinschmidt have really stepped up to do jobs that aren’t in their job description,” Couchman said.

The shift is temporary and costs the districts very little, Couchman said.

“All school meals are free right now through the FDA, and McPherson is counting those meals in their count, so it’s free to us. We’re paying some of the extra costs besides food, like transportation costs,” she said.