By Melissa J. Grant 2013-09-02 22:43:35
Have no fear, school lunch superheroes are here to save the tray from unhealthy foods and empty stomachs from growling out of control! Across the nation, communities expressed gratitude on School Lunch Superhero Day! The inaugural School Lunch Superhero Day, held May 3, 2013, was simply a smashing success! Founded by Jarrett J. Krosoczka, author/ illustrator of the Lunch Lady series of graphic novels aimed at elementary students, and cosponsored by SNA and Random House Children’s Books, the promotional event took a cue from Krosoczka’s novels, which center around the adventures of a school nutrition professional who leads a double life as a crime-fighting superhero. Krosoczka conceived the Lunch Lady series with his own former cafeteria manager in mind, saluting the positive difference this important figure made in his childhood, and ultimately, in his life. School Lunch Superhero Day was established to coincide with the birthday of Krosoczka’s inspiration, the late Jean Cariglia, as well as School Nutrition Employee Week. In addition to showcasing the many ways that school nutrition professionals make a difference in the lives of children, from kindergarten to 12th grade, the promotional event also served as an opportunity for individual communities to extend their thanks and appreciation for their own school cafeteria teams. “Too often, school nutrition professionals, their hard work and dedication to the children they serve go unrecognized,” said then-SNA President Sandra Ford, SNS. “School Lunch Superhero Day gives students and schools an opportunity to spotlight their school nutrition staff and thank them for the healthy meals they serve and for making the cafeteria a fun and welcoming place for students.” Celebrated in schools across the country, School Lunch Superhero Day lifted the spirits of school nutrition teams and students alike with fun, games and more than a little respect. Krosoczka appeared at a special celebration at his former elementary school, Gates Lane Elementary in Worcester, Mass. In addition, Krosoczka’s StudioJJK produced a special promotional video (http://tinyurl.com/superherodayvideo) featuring enthusiastic “dancers” from cafeteria teams in Naples, Fla., Lawrenceville, Ga., Weatogue, Conn., Hopkinton, Mass., Sutton, Mass., Roseville, Minn., York, Neb., Castleton, N.Y., and Annandale, Va. [Editors’ Note: Krosoczka also shared his story and his salute to America’s school nutrition professionals at SNA’s Annual National Conference (ANC) in Kansas City in July. See page 38 for more details.] Following is a brief look in words and pictures at some of the many creative activities SNA uncovered. Wonder Women (and Men!) A cape, mask and gloves all are items fit for a superhero, so the school nutrition staff of Patrick Henry High School, Glade Spring, Va., Mt. Yonah Elementary School, Sautee, Ga., and many other schools donned their special gear to celebrate the day named in their honor. In many cases, these creative costumes were a complete—but delightful—surprise to their customers. So many school nutrition professionals dedicate decades to children. When these wonderful women and men retire, they are appreciated and greatly missed. The team in Hickman Mills C-1 School District, Kansas City, Mo., used this occasion to celebrate the retirement of one of their superhero lunch ladies. SNA of Massachusetts celebrated its superheroes by organizing a statewide essay contest. Students, parents and administrators were invited to describe their favorite school nutrition employee. The winning superhero received a full registration to the state affiliate’s fall conference, a plaque of appreciation and a complete set of the Lunch Lady novels for their school. In Plymouth (Mich.) Canton Community Schools, a group of students created a poem, “Everyday Superhero,” in which each letter in the word “Superhero” described the sheer awesome-ness of their lunch ladies. Accolades included “Pride in your job” and “Outstanding cafeteria service.” In Dedham, Mass., students at three elementary schools honored their cafeteria teams. At one site, Oakdale Elementary, more than 300 thankyou cards were made for school nutrition employees during library time. Also, students and teachers came to school dressed as school lunch superheroes, wearing aprons, chef’s hats and rubber gloves, while carrying kitchen utensils. At nearby Avery Elementary, students drew their own comics or created their own super-powered kitchen utensils. The Avery Student Council presented the cafeteria staff with a thank-you banner and bouquets of origami flowers. Riverdale Elementary students created comics, too, starring their very own cafeteria manager. David Etkin, a teacher at Sweet Home Middle School, in Amherst, N.Y, blogged about the Superhero Day projects planned with his class. They Lunch Lady books, but replaced the faces with photos of their own cafeteria team members, to create fun posters. In addition, the kids surveyed the staff with such engaging questions as “What is your favorite lunch to serve?,” “What made you want to be a lunch lady?,” Where was your best vacation?,” “What do you and your family like to do for fun?” and “Why do you like working with kids?” The answers were attached to the posters. A 40-minute YouTube video encouraged all students in the school to wear an apron to school on Superhero Day. Finally, Etkin purchased supplies for his class to create bedazzled spatulas to present. Sherry Gick, another teacher (and blogger) who works at Rossville (Ind.) Consolidated Schools, declared, “I think getting ready to celebrate School Lunch Superhero Day on May 3 may have been the most fun preparations ever!” She arranged for a surprise presentation of student cards, posters and cafeteria banners (hung by the “awesome maintenance staff” after the cafeteria staff had gone home for the day). A large stand-up cutout of the Lunch Lady character allowed everyone to have their picture taken as the superhero supreme! All were encouraged to wear yellow for the big celebration. Gick and the principal delivered doughnuts and other goodies to their School Lunch Superheroes first thing in the morning. Each was presented with a special Lunch Lady button to wear. “It was an amazing day,” writes Gick. “It is always such a great feeling to recognize others for their hard work and commitment. I know our ‘Lunch Ladies’ felt extra special, and I can’t wait to celebrate again next year!” School nutrition professionals may not be able to laser beam nutrition into the meals they serve every day, but without a doubt, they know the power that already exists in foods like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains—and they make sure to communicate these amazing nutrition benefits to their student customers, all the while ensuring that menus appeal to picky eaters. In recognition of this accomplishment, child nutrition team members in the Metropolitan School District of Wayne Township, Indianapolis, completed forms explaining why they know they are, indeed, school lunch superheroes. The district also ordered a complete set of the Lunch Lady series and donated the books to school libraries and to the district ’s Help One Student To Succeed mentoring program, in which volunteers teach reading skills to secondand third-grade students. The Great Neck (N.Y.) School District celebrated with a visit by state legislators joining the superintendent and assistant superintendent for business and finance. Together, they officially recognized the great work of school nutrition professionals across the nation—and right in their own district. Hooray! What would we do without our school lunch superheroes? Could we face the monster that takes the form of increasingly high statistics on ch ildhood hunger? What better way to say “Thank you for all you do” than to have a day named just for you? If you’re not sure how to honor your colleagues—and yourself—for next year’s School Lunch Superhero Day celebrations, start by asking your child nutrition team members what their favorite meal is, and prepare it for them as part of a special recognition luncheon. Or maybe surprising them with new school badges that include “School Lunch Superhero” as a part of their name would be just the thing to put a smile on their faces and power up their incredible efforts throughout the school year. The event will return in 2014, celebrated on Friday, May 2. Stay tuned to the magazine and SchoolNutrition.org for more details. But there’s no reason to wait months to celebrate the school lunch superheroes in your community! Share your pride with local media and remember that School Nutrition always welcomes news about the inspiring things going on around the country in support of the collective child nutrition mission. Send your written details and any photos of events to School Nutrition, 120 Waterfront St., Suite 300, National Harbor, MD 20745, or via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. While we can’t publish every report that we may receive, we are always on the lookout for new people to profile and ideas to showcase. You may find your superheroes featured in an upcoming issue of School Nutrition! Melissa Grant is the communications coordinator for School Nutrition.
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