EL PASO, Texas -- Monday, Wednesday and Friday, El Paso Independent School District cafeteria employees wake up early to hit the kitchen to prepare weekly meals for the students.
"The fact that they are here early in the morning preparing hundreds and hundreds, actually thousands of meals for the community keeps me going," EPISD Food Services Director Laura Duran said.
The district serves nearly 60,000 meals for 50 sites, according to Duran.
As the cafeteria manager at Moye Elementary was helping her team prep during one early morning, she described the pandemic in one word: "Sad."
Adriana Velasquez then added, "everything has changed for us. It's hard not to see our kiddos. For me that is the hardest part, not being able to see the kids."
The cafeteria kitchen was bustling with five employees around 6 a.m. when ABC-7 crews arrived. The five woman team didn't stop for a minute, while the crew was filming.
Slice after slice, the pieces of bread were methodically laid out before being stacked with cheese and deli meat; this hard-working team was making cold cuts for the students, who could go hungry without their services.
"We know that especially in this school, we have kids that need the food," Velasques explained. "We are doing the best that we can. We are doing it gladly because we know that they need food."
As the dozens of thousands of students eagerly await for the meals from these hardworking employees, it appears 'essential' is almost an understatement for the hard work that was displayed in that kitchen.
Students who are fed by these employees depend on this service.
"The kids that were coming to school are used to our meals and used to eating breakfast and lunch at school," Duran said. "If the parents are without a job or they don't have enough food right now because they can't buy three meals a day, then our meals are essential."
Donning masks inside the kitchen, Velasquez said she seldom thinks about the coronavirus
"I don't think about that you know, I just know we will do the right thing for them, you know," she said. "When you get the blessings and the smiles and when they say thank you, you don't think about putting your life at risk. We try to take care of yourself and the ladies, but that is the least that you think about."
She told ABC-7 that they will continue this service as the pandemic ensues.
"We are here and we are here to help the community and we hope we get a lot of people to get their food," Velasquez said.