Allie Brunson, age 11, recently delivers a meal to the home of George West through Allie’s mom Katie Brunson’s business Sweet and Sassy, LLC.
By Eric Harrold
EDGEMONT – These days, Katie Brunson is pulling double duty. Well actually, she’s been pulling double duty for about four years now. Brunson, a science teacher at Hot Springs High School, owns Sweet and Sassy, LLC, a small business that began in spring of 2016, specializing in gourmet freezer meals and other farm-to-table products grown on the Brunson Ranch six miles south of Edgemont.
You could say that the COVID-19 outbreak has her pulling quadruple duty, as it has required that she alter her approach to both her teaching and business endeavors.
Brunson has a small group of clients that have been receiving evening meals that are hot and ready-to-go. Initially, there were some precautions taken when word of the virus was first getting out.
“We were delivering with a safe apron and gloves to each customer and I am the only one handling the food in the kitchen,” said Brunson. “We refrained from customer interaction and did not come inside unless the customer requested for us to bring it in and put it on their table.”
Things changed for Brunson last week when the Western South Dakota Senior Services at the recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control advised meals programs and caterers against direct contact with patrons. Coming inside and social interaction are no longer an option in accordance with the ‘social distancing’ recommendations that are part of the effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
“So now when I pick up their money I must use gloves and place their money envelope in a container where it must remain for 72 hours before it can be taken out to count and process the sale. New gloves must be used for each site visit,” Brunson said.
Sweet and Sassy customers are assured of receiving an authentic home-cooked meal from a local source, the hallmark of the farm-to-table movement that is growing throughout the country.
“Tonight we will deliver orange chicken with broccoli, lo main noodles, and rice pilaf,” stated Brunson. “All foods are claimed to be raised by us including the meat, vegetables, and eggs used in the meals. Our highest delivery night was with Chicken fried steak, garlic mashed potatoes and buttered corn with a sweet dinner roll, with 34 meals being delivered,” she continued.
The joy derived from purely a food service perspective is quite simple, according to Brunson. “To have people enjoy the comforts of home cooked meals, without exposure to large crowds, and putting smiles on faces is priceless,” she says.
Being a teacher herself, Brunson understands all too well the quick adjustments and additional demands recently placed on teachers with the school closures that require students to receive lessons online while the need for isolation and social distancing are in order.
“For us as a family owned business it is not about surviving as a small business owner, but reaching out to others in troubled times, and offering kind gestures like free delivery of meals to an educator tonight as a token of thanks for being so gracious with your time as a teacher and making the kids in the community still feel valued, but also have education look different in so many ways including strategy, conference calls, and how they submit the grades,” explains Brunson.
Brunson also obviously appreciates the need to recognize the perseverance of students in such challenging times. “I gave the family who’s daughter submitted an assignment first in her grade a free choice family size gourmet freezer meal as a “high five” for being so academic with her work,” recalls Brunson. “And as it turns out, also a heartfelt “keep your chin up” to her Mom, who just had received notice of her job layoff yet still had a positive attitude toward helping her child with school work.”
Brunson insists that being a compassionate community member is the way to go about things in a small tight-knit community like Edgemont. “I do want to grow Sweet and Sassy as a business, and keep everything local from our ranch, but also be a business others can count on for blessings in time of need.