Today, May 5th is the 5th Annual National School Lunch Hero Day – a day to celebrate the unsung heroes in all schools, the men and women who make sure hungry children are fed!
In Washington alone, 43% of students qualify for free or reduced lunches. Many of these students, plus those who don’t qualify, often rely on school meals for daily nourishment. For some children, school meals are the only foods these children get to eat in a day. Getting food into the hands of hungry students takes hours of preparation, dedication and love. We want to pay tribute to all of the unsung superstars in the schools across Washington, the School Lunch Heroes. From School Nutrition Directors to Kitchen Managers and cooks, these men and women dedicate their lives to feeding children. Here are two examples of heroes in our midst:
Cathy, Martin Luther King Junior Elementary, Yakima School District
This school year, Yakima School District decided to “re-think” and add some new menu items at breakfast and lunch by offering fruit and yogurt smoothies as a kick off to the Fuel Up to Play 60 (FUTP60) program. And to make the FUTP60 program a success, each school needs a School Lunch Hero – enter Cathy Martin at MLK Jr. Elementary.
Cathy took hold of the FUTP60 program and ran with it to make sure students are getting the most nutritious options she could give them. “Cathy has always taken a kids-come-first approach and has been willing to go above and beyond to ensure kids enjoy their meals,” shared Dan McLain, General Manager of Yakima School District Nutrition Services.
Not only did Cathy start preparing and serving fruit and yogurt parfaits to her students, she also started offering nutritious smoothies to give students an additional healthy option for breakfast. “As kids got breakfast, I heard numerous times ‘I don’t know what to choose, they have all my favorites!’, that is due to Cathy’s efforts,” explained McLain.
Cynthia, Bailey Gatzert Elementary, Seattle School District
As the largest school district in Washington and serving 91 schools, you can imagine feeding that many hungry students in Seattle Public Schools can get a little tricky. However, with the help of School Lunch Heroes, it becomes a rewarding task. Case in point, Mrs. Cynthia (as her students like to call her) at Bailey Gatzert Elementary School in Seattle takes the school meal experience to the next level.
Mrs. Cynthia’s brightness and enthusiasm for feeding her students shows through in her work. Students from all grades love the food and her passion for cooking. “Mrs. Cynthia cooks with love, the food always looks good. I love the spaghetti!” exclaimed a 5th grade student at the school. Even teachers are eating healthier thanks to her, “I never miss a day of school lunch with Mrs. Cynthia. I eat more vegetables at school than at home! It’s good healthy food,” smiled PE teacher Zack Benvenga.
For the past three years, Seattle Public Schools has participated in Washington State Dairy Council’s iBreakfast program to encourage students to fuel up with breakfast at school and try new menu items like smoothies and parfaits. Mrs. Cynthia is always enthusiastic about offering new foods for students to try and doesn’t mind the few extra steps to help kids get healthy and win cool prizes for participating in breakfast.
Here’s to you Cathy and Cynthia and to ALL of the School Lunch Heroes across our state making a difference in the beverage and food choices students make to help them have a healthier day.