For School Lunch Hero Day, Health-e Pro wanted to honor some of the great work being done in districts. We’ve been seeing such great work being done by foodservice professionals, especially in schools, so we asked for nominations for School Lunch Hero Day. We knew we’d hear great stories, but we weren’t expecting this many great stories–we’ve gotten dozens and dozens! Thank you for contributing and sharing your superheroes with us!

We’ll pick our three favorites on School Lunch Hero Day and send them each an Amazon gift card. But with all these great submissions, we wanted to highlight them here so they could be recognized for the great work during they’re doing during this unprecedented time. We’ll be updating this post daily, highlighting new superheroes each day! Check back often and see if someone you know is honored.

Is there someone you’d like to nominate? Go here to add your superheroes to the mix.

Nancy O’Brien, Dare County Schools – nominated by Kelleta Govan

“Nancy, a school nutrition manager, has worked feeding children since our schools closed on March 16. Knowing children are being fed and families are very appreciative of the meals drives her each and every day to continue the important work of feeding children. She arrives at 5:45 AM to prepare for meal service. She takes part in passing out the meals so she is able to see the children. Her days ends around 2:00 PM. She has truly been an asset to the children and families within our county.”

Dr. Yetunda Alade, Clayton County Public Schools – nominated by Audrey Hamilton

“When it comes down to feeding children, Dr. Alade places all of her energy into making sure that children are fed, meals arrive on time at the feeding sites, the program meets federal and state compliance, and the program operates within the established budget. Dr. Alade realizes one thing: there are a lot of hungry children out there who depend on our program to provide a variety of nutritious and enjoyable meals each day. The smiles on the faces of children when they see the food trucks roll up to their feeding sites are priceless. When Covid-19 caused unanticipated school closures in our district, Dr. Alade was able to quickly spring into action and gather a team of willing nutrition professionals who didn’t mind risking their lives to serve hot and cold meals to children. She and staff understand the importance of feeding hungry children who are out of school and how these meals contribute to their academic success. She is well-respected by all who work with her because they know that she is willing to jump in the trenches with them. Although she is part of the leadership team, she garners team respect because she cooks, cleans, serve meals, covers a position for an absent team member, takes out trash and trains staff. People find these leadership qualities admirable and don’t mind following a leader who goes to such lengths to be supportive in all aspects of their work. Our children benefit for the meals that she plan for their consumption. Their “Thank you” notes speaks to their appreciation regarding the meals that they receive. Dr. Alade is our silent Superhero who does not give herself credit for her outstanding work; she allows her work to show in her actions and determination to serve meals to children in these unprecedented times that we individually and collectively face worldwide.”

Earnest Chambers, Clark County School District – nominated by Regina Johnson

Although he is a driver, he helps pass out food to the kids and is encouraging, explaining homework packages and how to get Chrome laptop computers for the kids. He’s just really resourceful. My daughter only wants to go to his location. We have other schools closer but she likes to travel across town just for that location because he and the other staff make her feel good.

Omar Medrano, Neighborhood House Association – nominated by Kristine Smith

“Omar is a Delivery Driver for Nutrition Services. Under normal circumstances, he is part of a Driver team that delivers 6,000 breakfasts, lunches, and snacks to about 60 Head Start and senior centers daily. He once rescued a child at a school that got left behind on the playground from the rest of his class and teacher. The child was crying and so afraid, but Omar calmed him and found the teacher and class to return him. When he arrives to his delivery locations, the children are always so excited to see him and help push the delivery cart to the school’s on-site kitchen. Since life has drastically changed in recent weeks due to COVID-19, he now distributes meals at one of six designated distribution sites to families of Head Start children and also to seniors directly. He has taken the initiative to invite the parents to come back day after day and listens to their stories about what’s happening in their lives. He is most likely the one person outside their family the parents and seniors get to chat with every day. He has even taken it upon himself to remember which families have food allergies or reasons to avoid specific foods and sets aside special meals for them. He has quickly become an outstanding role model in our department for delivering excellent customer service!”

Carmen Baca, Belen Consolidated Schools – nominated by Janet Sanchez

“Carmen is our manager at LM Elementary School Kitchen. Since the school closure, she has been working hard right along side her team to prepare and serve over 700 meals for her community. As we all started off not knowing how long we’d be at this, we began only serving cold sandwich meals. As it became apparent it was going to go on a lot longer, she was thinking about providing more variety to keep the students happy. Her “we can do it!” can-do attitude and daily positive outlook on feeding students is inspiring. As I get calls and feedback from another eight sites, she is one that i have not had to worry about calling as she has remained positive, proactive and brings a smile to my face each day making the best out of this crazy time we are going through. She is my super hero who keeps me positive and upbeat during these untreaded waters.”

Heidi Colin, Berlin CSD – nominated by Tammy Whitman

“My Cook Manager, Heidi, goes above and beyond her duties during the normal school year, but with this Pandemic and the unique circumstances, I wouldn’t want anyone else in this position. She has been working every single day, including weekends to ensure that the students receive their meals. We are currently providing meals to around 300 students. We are delivering the meals on Monday (for Monday and Tuesday) and on Wednesday (for Wed, Thursday and Friday). She is supervising approximately 20 staff members, of whom only seven are normal FSW. We are using monitors, TA’s, and secretaries, as well, to help prepare meals. She is having to teach these “new” workers how to prep meals, making sure to follow Child Nutrition guidelines. She is overseeing all the staff, making sure meals are being packaged correctly–meeting all guidelines–and then making sure they are sorted by bus route. In addition, she is still cooking, placing orders, figuring out menus, making sure deliveries are correct, checking inventory, and so many other things. She has really stepped up the place during this pandemic, making sure all staff are following social distancing, wearing PPE, answering any questions or concerns and just making them all feel comfortable. She loves our students and she deserves the recognition for all of her hard work.”

Shagay Holland, Edmonds School – nominated by Megan DeVries

“Shagay is one of our three food and nutrition services drivers working during the school closure. I want to nominate all three of our food service drivers because each of them were delivering and serving meals for the first two weeks of this closure without additional help. They stepped way out of their comfort zone and put themselves on the front lines. On top of being on the front lines, they also keep asking what else they can do to help our department. It is not glamorous work hauling food and equipment around but our operations could not operate without our three dedicated drivers. Shagay also offered to take her earned days off last so all the other drivers and district staff got a break first.”

Sara Azbell, Milan Special School District – nominated by Vickie Dunaway

“Sara is the manager for Milan Middle School in the Milan Special School District. She has been a silent SUPERHERO throughout this emergency feeding during the COVID-19 shutdown. We are serving close to meals 13,000 meals a week as a district. Her school sends out close to 5,000 of those meals. We pack meals and deliver them 2 days a week on 11 school buses. However, Sara is at her school 5 days a week putting in countless hours behind the scenes ordering food and supplies ensuring that when delivery day arrives everything is available, ready to be prepared, packed, and delivered to students in our community. She will be in her kitchen cooking, prepping even bagging food alone before the day of delivery so that everything runs as smooth as possible on delivery day. She is always going that extra mile. Thank you Sara Azbell for everything you do for me, your kids, your staff, the volunteers and your community!”

Sheila Buhse, South Huntington USD – nominated by Kelly Twist

“Sheila Buhse, our School Lunch Director, has created, implemented, and continues to sustain our district’s Grab-and-Go program when we were suddenly hit with the pandemic. Within a couples day’s notice, spearheaded by Sheila, we were able to open a central location for our district families. The number of families she has been able to assist is amazing. The gratitude and smiles received is very heartwarming. Sheila’s kindness to everyone is uplifting. She is an inspiration to me personally, as well as all her staff members. Sheila is the epitome of a school lunch hero!”

Jackie McCarthy, Ridgemont School – nominated by Theresa Gillfillan

“Jackie was a sub for our kitchen for a few years, then we were able to hire her a year and half ago when an opening came up! I’m planning on retiring in seven years and we need someone to take over then–she is the perfect person! She has taught me computer skills, she is tall enough to reach top shelves, she has the best personality, and she is a great organizer. Jackie has twin boys who are adorable. She volunteers for most of the community activities! Since the virus shut everything down, I work from home and Jackie has stepped up to run the kitchen to prepare packed breakfast and lunches for our students! With her having to be her twins teacher, take care of her husband getting over surgery, the loss of her MIL, and running the kitchen with hardly the experience, she is my HERO!!!!”

Kim Cotta, Ignacio School District – nominated by Rocco Fuschetto

“When the conversation began about the possibility of closure of school, Kim approached me about developing a plan to provide service to our many students since our Free/reduced meal program is at approximately 67%. A plan was developed with our Transportation Department to make deliveries to four different locations in our district. Also, working with our Technology Department, an order form was posted on the website so parents could order the number of daily meals needed. About 300 of our students are receiving breakfast and lunch daily and almost always include a hot meal placed in warm containers. Kim, her staff, and a number of volunteers meet parents at curbside every day. She wants to make it very festive by decorating her food carts, adding notes to students, and having inspirational signs posted. Also, Kim has arranged for the local food pantry to be present at least one day a week to have extra food for parents and students. I do not know any other person that deserves this recognition better than Kim Cotta.” Check out these great signs and meals by Kim Cotta at Ignacio School District!

Ignacio School District Curbside Feeding

Patty Finley, Gasconade C4 Elementary nominated by Terri Gregory

“I’m the food service director at a very small rural school in Missouri. Patty is one of our bus drivers. We have been delivering food baskets and meals to our students since school shut down. I had no help with this started but Patty has been a friend of mine for years and she volunteered to help me right from the beginning. She comes in early with me and helps bag and organize everything, then we deliver it all out of her truck. Patty does all the driving. The school reimburses her for gas but other then that we get nothing for this. If we get a grant then she will receive some compensation. But she has such a big heart and will do anything for someone in need. She also delivers senior meals on another day. I’m so proud to call her my friend.”

Kelly Cook, R-7 Lees Summit School District – nominated by Sharon Owensby

“Kelly has worked the front lines everyday since we started. She starts the day making sure her bags are ready to go for the day. Then she jumps over and helps others get their items bagged, packed, and headed for the buses. When the bus couldn’t get her down a dead-end street, Kelly took one of our transport carts and loaded it up for those kiddos and walked down a block so they don’t miss out on their meals. Even on a cold and rainy day Kelly headed down the block so no kiddo would miss out. Kelly does it all with a smile for her coworkers and the kiddos–she is a front line Super Hero!!”

The Entire Team at Bowling Green ISD – nominated by Dalla Emerson

“I would like to nominate my entire team (district: cafeteria, bus drivers, custodians, volunteers) for the Hero Award. We have not skipped a single beat. 5 days, 7 meals, per 2k kids in our community since this all started. My cafeteria staff are superstars on a regular basis, and this COVID19 crisis has just served to prove that they are above and beyond. I could not imagine feeding our babies with any other crew.”

Looking to learn more about School Lunch Hero Day? Check out this page from the School Nutrition Association page to learn more!

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