School canteen turns student lunches into family dinners

The hospitality staff at St Mary’s Gateshead (MNNews.Today)

The forced closure of its school canteen saw a Catholic secondary school in Newcastle rethink how it could best be “ready to serve” its community, writes DeAnna Addicoat. Source: MNNews.Today.

The foundation for this story goes back to St Mary MacKillop, Julian Tenison Woods and the Sisters of St Joseph. “Never see a need and do nothing about it” — these words of Tenison Woods still resonate today in the schools and homes of the Josephite Missions.

The Josephites opened St Mary’s Secondary School in Gateshead because they saw the need for a Catholic high school in the district. The school’s motto is “Yes We’re “Ready To Serve”.

This spirit and culture “to be ready to serve and do something about a need” still burns within the St Mary’s community today.

At St Mary’s, it was thought the coronavirus would result in the closure of our canteen. There were no longer students and we were concerned our canteen supervisor, Deb Tserepas, would lose her job. This was enforced change. There was a need.

Possible solutions were examined. The college’s hospitality staff — Deb Tserepas, Chris Shaw and Michelle Russell — began to cook dinners instead of preparing student lunches. This was to ease the burden of families who, with the added pressures of home schooling, social distancing, potential furloughing of jobs, siblings at home, lockdown restraints, shortages with supermarket shopping, work and financial worries, would have one less thing to organise and worry about.

The staff and families could order the evening meal on-line and collect them from a drive-through at the school. The St Mary’s Ready To Serve Café takeaway had begun.

There were still a lot of people doing it tough: still struggling; losing their jobs; feeling isolated, helpless and alone. The invitation was extended to the St Mary’s community that when they ordered their meal, they could pay for one extra meal — pay it forward.

This deed of kindness enabled donations for a meal bank to reach out to others to give them a hand-up and maybe put a smile on someone’s face, letting them know they were not alone. The response was swift and overwhelming.

As at May 21, 300 meals had been prepared and collected. From the generosity of community members, we have distributed 55 “pay-it-forward” meals.

DeAnna Addicoat is ministry co-ordinator at St Mary's Catholic College, Gateshead.


Need for a feed resolved at St Mary’s ready-to-serve café (MNNews.Today

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