First Lady Pam Northam Visits Northampton High School and Cafeteria

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Virginia first lady Pamela Northam pauses for a photo with Northampton High School food service staff. Photo by Stefanie Jackson.

By Stefanie Jackson – Virginia’s first lady, Pamela Northam, visited the Eastern Shore on Monday, including a stop at Northampton High School to see how staff, teachers, and students are getting on during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Her main interest at the middle and high school building was the cafeteria, where she met its workers, including manager Doris Collins, and discussed the importance of student nutrition.

“You can’t grow if you’re hungry; you can’t learn if you’re hungry,” Northam said.

She presented challenge coins as tokens of appreciation to cafeteria workers and other staff she met on her tour of the school.

A challenge coin typically bears the insignia and motto of an organization, whether military or civilian. Historically, such a coin has been used to prove membership in a group when challenged by an outsider.

Northam gave away the coins to honor a military tradition and said Gov. Ralph Northam received challenge coins when he served in the U.S. Army.

Each coin was one of four colors – gold, green, blue, or pink – with the Virginia seal on the front and a native animal or plant species on the back, such as a cardinal, blue crab, or dogwood tree.

The first lady thanked the Northampton High School staff for their work, with particular attention to the food service employees.

Northampton County Public Schools has incorporated new strategies to feed students while limiting their potential exposure to COVID-19.

During school hours, hot lunches are packed in styrofoam containers and are picked up by students who come into the cafeteria one at a time and take the meals back to their classrooms.

Each student enters through one door and exits through another door, so there is no intermingling of students from different classrooms.

These students in the hybrid learning program attend school in person two days a week and learn from home two days a week. No students are in the school buildings on Wednesdays.

At the end of the school day, students pick up their breakfasts and lunches for the following day of learning from home.

Students in the virtual learning program, who complete all their schoolwork at home, pick up five breakfasts and lunches every week.

Each breakfast includes non-perishable items like dry cereal and graham crackers, and each lunch includes fresh fruits and vegetables and a cold sandwich or a frozen entree (such as a cheeseburger or mini pizza) that can be reheated when needed.

All Occohannock Elementary School students will learn virtually until Jan. 4 due to a COVID-19 outbreak that has affected four individuals at the school, according to a Nov. 30 letter from Northampton schools Superintendent Eddie Lawrence.

For the first three weeks of December, until Christmas vacation, parents of Occohannock students can pick up school meals on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Meals can be picked up between 10 a.m. to noon in front of the school or at the following times and locations: 10 to 11 a.m. at the Jamesville post office, Antioch Baptist Church in Birdsnest, or the New Roads community; 11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. at the Little Italy parking lot, Food Lion in Exmore, or the Hare Valley school; and 10 to 11:30 a.m. at the school board office in Machipongo.

A Northampton school bus will be parked at each meal pick-up location.

The meals are provided free to students regardless of their household income, through U.S. Department of Agriculture food programs.

Parents must show student IDs and provide names of non-school-age children for whom they are picking up meals. Participating children must be age 18 and under.

For more information, call food service coordinator Annette Kellam at 757-678-5151 ext. 2602.

Above is one of four designs of challenge coins that Virginia first lady Pamela Northam gave to Northampton County Public Schools employees Nov. 30 as tokens of appreciation. Each coin bears the Virginia seal on the obverse and a native species on the reverse. Photos by Stefanie Jackson.