Behind the Vac-Scene: Nutritionist Mary Mathieu-Ruiz is ready to interact with students and provide them with nutritious meals


Mary Mathieu-Ruiz

Nutritionist and Area Supervisor Mary Mathieu-Ruiz is hopeful for a return to normal.

Owen Spargo, News Editor

“It’s just been the change, the constant change from week to week. There’s never been a point where you can get comfortable or feel like you’re caught up, or ahead.” 


The COVID-19 pandemic turbulently shifted and transformed the job descriptions of many Americans until recently, vaccine rollout has allowed employees to move back to their in person roles. Mary Mathieu-Ruiz, an Area Supervisor of school nutrition programs and nutritionist for the San Ramon Valley Unified School District (SRVUSD), is no exception.


“A lot of my responsibilities have actually changed,” she explained. Usually her role includes reviewing nutrition specifications, making sure schools are meeting requirements and ensuring that school nutrition stays up and running.


However, because of the pandemic and the inability to constantly be on site, Ruiz continues that she’s doing significantly less of the role she had before the pandemic as “the nutritional analysis has kind of gone to the side for now.”


Even though Ruiz’s job is no longer so focused on analyzing data and supervising nutrition at schools due to the nature of our online environment, the pandemic has allowed her to shift her focus to another important responsibility: community outreach.


“A job that I’ve been given in the meantime is to market and to get as many people participating in our Grab and Go program,” she said.


The Grab and Go program is an SRVUSD program that allows any and all families in the district to access free nutritious meals at certain pickup sites in an effort to keep students healthy. Thus, as Ruiz puts it, her role now is “much less [focused] on nutrition education and more on finding families to participate in the program.”


Because the program is most effective when more families take advantage of its benefits, Ruiz explains that she has been “working with the administrators to make sure they’re getting that information out for families.”  


Thankfully, Ruiz was finally able to get her hands on a vaccine appointment and turn the tide of her current situation. 

Thankfully, Ruiz was finally able to get her hands on a vaccine appointment and turn the tide of her current situation. 

After being vaccinated, Ruiz is starting to make the transition back to her normal roles. As an essential worker, Ruiz was able to get her vaccine relatively early. Although she did face some complications, using the MyTurn website, Ruiz was able to schedule her appointment at the Oakland Coliseum.


“I was really nervous; I didn’t know what to expect, I was by myself,” she said. However, this feeling soon changed. 

“As soon as I got there, I started to feel relieved. It was very organized [and] everybody was very professional. I was just floored by the experience; it was so well put together and all the nurses and everyone that was there taking information were nice and very thoughtful.”


Ruiz described the experience like being on a rollercoaster because of not only the physical maneuvering but excitement as well. “ You just went around these cones, kind of like a rollercoaster. You’re not going up and down you’re just going all around until you drive up.”


“I think I probably cranked up the music and sang a bit more loudly on the way home,” she said.


Reflecting on her vaccination, Ruiz explained that her appointment meant more than just getting a shot in her arm. To her, it meant progress.


“Something’s being done finally. Before, it felt like we weren’t moving forward. We were just stuck in this situation and it just didn’t feel like there was any hope for a long time. I think there was hope at that moment.”

Ruiz is now excited to get back to her job and get back to some sort of normal. One of the things she is most looking forward to is being with the students. 


“Now that we’re in person, it’s really nice to see [students] interacting again and carrying on with normal things.”


Although the pandemic is not over and transitioning back won’t be easy, Ruiz is ready to return to her pre-pandemic role. 


“Opening up the schools has changed greatly because we have to be more accessible. [District employees] have also been doing COVID-19 testing every other week and sometimes every week. But I think everything has kind of pushed us in the direction of where things are getting back to normal.”


Overall, despite all the chaos the pandemic has caused, Ruiz seems somewhat of a silver lining.


 “We have been able to feed all children and all students under 18. There hasn’t been any division based on economic status.”


In fact, Ruiz continues that, “California is currently looking at doing universal meals where we continue to feed all students free meals as a permanent policy. So even though this pandemic has brought a lot of loss, this one thing has definitely been a positive.”


As we shift back to our new normal, Ruiz emphasizes that “there’s some hope there. I think there’s a lot to look forward to now.”