When we think of members of the school staff that play a significant role in the lives of our children — teachers, coaches, counselors, administrators and office personnel come to mind.
I would like to acknowledge some unsung heroes of our school who work efficiently behind the scenes with little notice or applause for their contribution to the success of our kids.
Principal of P/S School, Mike Clark, recognizes the value of their service and said, “Our Food Service staff — Patty Howard, director; Kim Davis, assistant director; and Renay Janisch, FS worker — provide a nutritious breakfast and lunch every school day. They also do a lot more than just feed our kids.”
I went to the school to meet the three remarkable women who work hard to improve our children’s health and academic success every single day.
It was cold outside with a snowstorm brewing as I entered the cafeteria to warmth and a tempting aroma, reminding me I had not had breakfast. I thought of the children who would go without breakfast were it not for workers like Patty Howard, who rises at 3 a.m. each school day to ensure the kids are greeted with a smile, a hug and nutrition to fuel them for success. She knows kids need to eat to think and that her work is a necessary ingredient to the recipe.
Some powerful research completed by the Children’s Health Watch (formerly Children’s Sentinel Nutrition Assessment Program), and affirmed in many studies over the past two decades, reveals that hunger actually alters the architecture of a child’s brain, making it impossible for them to achieve their potential.
Patty also knows the meals the school serves are crucial for kids whose families are struggling. “It may be the best meal some children receive for the day,” she said.
Through the federal “Free and Reduced” program, P/S School provides more than 100 lunches daily (with 109 students served on Jan. 7 and 113 on Jan. 9). The members of the staff have undergone extensive training to ensure compliance to regulations in the program spearheaded by Michelle Obama. It focuses on colors like dark green, red and orange. And they are imparting this knowledge to kids, as students can be overheard saying, “Oh, I need a green” or ”I need a red.”
In P/S, students are not limited to a one-size-fits-all breakfast, but happily choose from a variety of items including toast, graham crackers, granola and more.
My visit to the school was Thursday — Mexican Food Day — and favorite lunch day of students and faculty. Judging by the tantalizing aroma of 20 pounds of chicken for tacos, I could see why. If a student does not want the lunch entree, an optional salad bar, loaded with protein, is always available.
Kim Davis, assistant food services manager, did substitute teaching and coaching at P/S School prior to working in food services. She works diligently, in collaboration with her co-workers, to bring students nutritious food choices in appealing ways. Kim has expertly revamped the school’s menu to meet the new and stringent federal guidelines. The members of the staff take pride in preparing over 90 percent of the meals from scratch with love — and recipes provided by the government.
Patty, Kim and Renay help out when a child needs assistance and observe when a child may need a little extra attention. Even though they are busy, they make a point to do this. Concerned moms and other caregivers can rest assured “guardian angels” are watching over their children who have special dietary needs with vigilance and knowledge.
“We love our kids”, said Patty, who has prepared, served and supervised meals for students at P/S School for 15 years and shares her insight and wisdom, “Kids are our future. If you show them respect they return it.”
Renay Janisch has worked in the P/S School cafeteria for two years. She has a cheerful, positive attitude and exclaimed, “I only wish I had begun working with kids earlier in life!”
There was no hint of complaint, although labor reports show school food service staff work hard, are on their feet long hours, receive little recognition and earn less than their counterparts in the food service industry. Yet, these ladies love their job!
I recently came across a book series on “the Lunch Lady.” Whatever lies ahead, it’s no match for LUNCH LADY. She doesn’t just serve lunch, but in the process, saves the world. Food service workers are superheroes to our kids.
These ladies just may have super powers, when just after serving breakfast to more than 100 kids — with lunch on the way — the cafeteria and kitchen area was immaculate; clean, shining, spotless and germ free. A cardiologist could perform surgery on the surfaces — it’s that clean!
I was not surprised that health department inspectors give P/S School the highest rating of “E” and one told the staff, “I would have no problem eating here!”
Kudos to P/S School District for putting kids first when it comes to nutrition.
The P/S School Food Service staff members are caring, trained, dedicated and to be commended for serving kids a warm and nutritious meal each day.
Take time to thank your school’s food service workers for their service. They make a difference in the lives of our children, our school and our community.
P/S Thrift Store
The P/S Community Center Thrift Store announces the acquisition of a great collection of vintage/antique books for you to purchase and enjoy.
They also have great weekly specials. From Jan. 16 to Jan. 19, all furniture and items on the shelving units, pillows and curtains are half price.
For more information, visit the Web site at www.pinestrawberryscaf.com. For donation pickups call (928) 476-4633. For information on the senior daily lunches, call (928) 476-2151.
Get some V8 juice (red), curl up with a good book, stay warm and e-mail your events to firstname.lastname@example.org.