Cafeteria manager works diligently to feed students

Before 9 a.m. on the first day of school, Sam Houston Math, Science, and Technology Center Cafeteria Manager Dony Jules had moved quickly to pack more than 70 student meals.

It may seem like a lot of work, but it was a slow start for someone who is used to feeding students by the thousands.

Jules is one of the hundreds of Nutrition Services staff who helped prepare and distribute meals to families at community food distributions during the early months of COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was challenging, but I was happy to do it,” she said. “I like keeping busy.”

When the district closed in March due to the pandemic, Jules’ work was just getting started. She took on six-day work weeks, traveled all over Houston to support multiple distribution sites, and often stood in triple-digit heat and rain to keep students fed – pushing aside worries about her own health and safety.

“The way I see it is, if you’re someone who is willing to wait two to three hours in line to get food, that’s letting me know you really are in need,” Jules said. “It just motivated me to do more.”

When the district transitioned from its community food distribution to its summer meals program in June, Jules helped distribute meals to 1,200 students a day. Her work, she said, was driven by her commitment to students.

“For some of these kids, it’s the only meal they’ll have that day,” Jules said. “I feel what we do is very important. We have to feed the kids.”

With in-person learning soon to resume, her work will once again shift with Jules’ soon splitting time between the school cafeteria and curbside pickup locations.

Her extra efforts have not gone unnoticed. Jules’ supervisor, Operations Manager Carol Chin, said she is appreciative of her hard work and dedication.

“She never took a day off, never complained about anything that was asked of her,” Chin said. “The students are her passion, and the staff and school principal are very happy to have her.”