By Kelsey Casselbury 2014-08-19 15:28:15
The second annual School Lunch Hero Day salutes school nutrition professionals across the country. Holy School Lunch Heroes, Batman! School Nutrition is in awe of the ingenious ways that SNA members around the country celebrated the second annual School Lunch Hero Day (SLHD) on May 2, 2014. In a time where federal regulations make serving school meals a bit like the “never-ending battle for truth, justice and the American way” that Superman himself faced, SLHD celebrates the everyday heroes that go above and beyond to feed the nation’s school children. SLHD was established by Jarrett J. Krosoczka, author of the Lunch Lady graphic novel series, in partnership with SNA and Random House Children’s Books. It was first celebrated with much fanfare in 2013, but the excitement for SLHD festivities was even greater for the second annual celebration, as students, teachers, staff and even fellow cafeteria workers showed their appreciation for the hard work and dedication of the site staff prepping and serving school meals. Take a look at a mere fraction of the reports SNA received, and let these inspire you for the busy new school year ahead, knowing that each and every one of you deserves the grateful thanks of millions. Gee, Thanks, Mister! (...er, Ma’am!) Indeed, gratitude was the theme of the day, as students, teachers and administrators from coast to coast honored the hard work of the kitchen staff. For example, the superintendent at North Colonie Central School District, Lantham, N.Y., honored its cafeteria team by declaring May 2 officially to be School Lunch Hero Day and issuing a framed proclamation. In Spring Independent School District, Houston, Texas, all 38 campuses celebrated their school heroes. At one site, the principal and office staff created a bulletin board, proclaiming, “We love our cafeteria staff!” Area Supervisor Jeannie Stallings asserted, “We believe our staff members are School Lunch Heroes every day; the staff loved having their own special day of appreciation and acknowledgement.” Lakewood Elementary School, in St. Albans, W.Va., welcomed a special guest for the day: Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, who mingled with a first-grade class, school cooks and nutrition specialists. Tomblin signed a proclamation declaring School Lunch Hero Day, which he presented to West Virginia School Nutrition Association President-Elect Patti Robertson. The cafeteria workers at Woodland Elementary School, Brooklyn Park, Minn., were bona fide celebrities for the day as the school’s in house television program, WDTV, discussed the many important contributions these employees make and reminded students to thank them as they went through the lunch line. “It was super sweet to hear all the ‘Thank yous’ in the lunch line,” reported cashier Amy Dienslake. “Even kids who are ‘cold lunchers’ came in and thanked us.” In Huron, Ohio, Foodservice Director Sue Whitaker told the staff throughout Huron City Schools to tune into the local radio station at 7:30 a.m., when the DJ gave a special shout-out to her “lunch ladies and lunch dude.” Secret Identities In a number of schools across the country, SLHD meant students were served meals by many a caped—literally!—crusader. Cafeteria staff members in the York (Pa.) Suburban School District greeted students in superhero attire; in return, each employee received a School Lunch Hero Day card, along with a small token of appreciation “for all the wonderful things they do each day,” said Food Service Director Helen Heidler. Bellingham (Mass.) Schools Wellness and Nutrition department celebrated “serving lunch and justice for all,” according to Assistant Food Service Director Liz Bell. Staffers donned yellow aprons, just like the crime fighter in the Lunch Lady book series. Down south in Fannin County (Ga.) School District, Mildred Johnson, the cafeteria manager at Blue Ridge Elementary School, was named the county’s School Lunch Hero and appropriately donned a yellow apron and chef’s hat, while brandishing a secret weapon—a whisk. Up, Up and Away! While each and every SLHD celebration is significant, some districts truly went above and beyond to honor their cafeteria employees. For example, the school nutrition operation at Mesquite (Texas) Independent School District examined the hard work of teams at all its sites and designated three top performers as “Super Heroes of 2014,” explained district dietitian Lark Duncan, RD, LD. The special designation went to the cafeteria teams at Beasley Elementary, Terry Middle School and Horn High School. “It was great experience, and a fun morale boost at the end of the year,” Duncan reported. “We will definitely do it again next year—bigger and better!” The folks at Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District, Houston, Texas, also took unique inspiration from Krosoczka’s creation and created a Lunch Super Hero Account, a special fund to ensure that every student has access to a hot meal each day, regardless of the status of their meal account. “This is just another way our staff and community members also can be our Lunch Super Heroes,” said Michelle Voelkel, RD, LD, foodservice marketing and special diet coordinator. The account, established in April with donations from local organizations, will continue to support kids through the assistance of private contributions. One school—Port Towns Elementary School in Bladensburg, Md.—was lucky enough to receive a visit from the SLHD man himself, Krosoczka, who made the celebratory trip along with several staff members from nearby SNA Headquarters. The students also presented the cafeteria staff with flowers, handwritten cards and a plaque expressing their collective gratitude. Super Celebrations Some schools took the festivities off campus. For example, the school nutrition operation at North Kansas City (Mo.) School District held an employee picnic at a local park. “The highlight was our life-sized School Lunch Superhero and taking pictures of our employees,” said Nancy Neill, SNS, FNS assistant director. “Fun was had by all!” The employees at Alvin (Texas) Independent School District were overwhelmed by the gratitude that rained down on them for SLHD. “Our cafeteria ladies were so excited with all the appreciation that flooded into their kitchen,” reported Norma Garcia, department secretary. “All the posters, thank you cards and goodies they got showed them how important they really are to Alvin ISD!” Staff also made two videos featuring clips of students proclaiming how much they truly appreciate their cafeteria employees. Some schools are already getting a jumpstart on planning next year’s SLHD, scheduled for May 1, 2015. “I just got back from the Annual National Conference in Boston, where I got to see Krosoczka, the author of the Lunch Lady series,” said Linda Northrup, cafeteria manager at Jefferson Avenue Elementary School, Fairport, N.Y., where they celebrated SLHD 2014 by donning green capes and star-clad shields. “Now that I’ve heard his story, next year, we will be going to the classic yellow capes.” No matter how you choose to honor the superheroes of your operation, SNA looks forward to another year of super-sized school hero celebrations when SLHD returns on May 1, 2015. Stay tuned to the magazine and www.schoolnutrition.org for more details and resources for crafting your own special event. Don’t forget to head to the SNA Emporium at www.emporium.schoolnutrition.org to stock up on T-shirts and other gifts for your own district’s school lunch heroes. School Nutrition always welcomes news about the inspiring events that occur around the country in the name of child nutrition. Send your story and high-resolution photos, identifying the name of each person in the picture, via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. While we can’t feature every photo we receive, you might find your heroes featured in an upcoming issue of School Nutrition! Kelsey Casselbury is managing editor of School Nutrition.
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