“It’s more than chicken nuggets, sloppy joe’s, plastic gloves & hairnets,” said Shatara Morris, school nutrition program support at Choice Schools. “The school nutrition professionals are responsible for budgeting, supervising, scheduling, counting, measuring, auditing, sanitizing and heavy lifting. They’re counseling, encouraging and loving on our most precious, most important and most valuable customers, our students.”
One of the unspoken roles of a food service professional is being a nurturer, putting the needs of students first.
Foodservice professionals play an important role in shaping lifelong healthy eating habits by offering nutritious meals. Many schools provide students with meals at both breakfast and lunch, making their foodservice worker one of the first people a child sees in the morning while eating breakfast with their friends in the cafeteria.
“Some staff have shared with me that students affectionately call them “auntie” or “mom” because they often approach them for hugs and encouragement. These professionals are often listening ears when a student is having a rough day or if they have exciting news to share,” Morris said.
Though jobs may be different, they serve a valuable role in their schools. They are some of the many support staff who contribute to the well-being of students and to the positive learning environment of the schools where they work. They expect greatness for their students every day.
Let’s meet some of our foodservice professionals.
At Macomb Montessori Academy, Ms. JoAnn prepares and serves food for about 165 students a day. She loves her job. She explained how there was one student who invited her into her classroom to fill in and be her “special person.” This really was a turning point for her as she felt more a part of the school community.
It’s a joint effort at MMA. Ms. JoAnn serves the food, but Ms. Kenesha is behind the scenes billing, ordering and making sure that the food is where it needs to be at the right time.
“When students are given a nutritional breakfast and lunch, they just perform better. Being able to be part of a kids’ journey from when they first step into the school building from a long night at home is rewarding. I like that I can help nourish not only their bodies but also provide support and guidance as needed for each student,” Kenesha Douglas, Nutritional Coordinator at Macomb Montessori Academy, said.
At Three Oaks Public School Academy, Duwanda Wickcliffe has been serving food to students for the past eleven years. She repeatedly said over and over that she loves her job and her students.
“I have a relationship with the students that is like no other. I have the ability to confront students on their issues because I can relate and have been there,” Wickcliffe commented. “By the next day, the kids get over the small stuff that I had to call them out on because they know that I love them and will always be there for them.”
“At Three Oaks, we expect greatness from our students. I know that since I expect greatness and I know I have made an impact because the kids know that I expect greatness and they are able to prove their greatness. They will do well in life.”
At West Michigan Academy of Environmental Science, Kimberlee Matheny leads the way as the Nutrition Director along with six other amazing staff members. By composting and recycling everything, the nutrition team shows that they are fulfilling their mission of being a green school and environmentally conscious. She and her team have worked tirelessly to make this happen. It has been so great to see the kids get into it and understand what waste truly is and how it affects the environment.
At West Michigan Academy of Environmental Science, Kimberlee Matheny leads the way as the Nutrition Director along with six other amazing staff members. They are committed to the environment as well and compost and recycling everything that is related to the meal program.
“Expecting greatness is a great value, and I like to think my attitude to expect greatness is raising up other people up for the challenge. When you work in a collaborative team environment to achieve a goal of what is best for the student, everyone can clearly see the reason and wants to achieve the goal. When your whole team is on board, everyone looks to improve processes and teamwork to raise each other up,” said Matheny.
“Statistics show that many students face food insecurities at home and need a good breakfast to get them off to a good start in class. I advocate for these students to get breakfast. It is what gives me the drive and motivation to continue my work,” Matheny continued.
The next time you go through the cafeteria line, take a moment to sincerely thank the person who prepared and served your meal. There is always a bigger story behind the person and we are so grateful for everything that they do.
Below is a list of these important staff members.
Battle Creek Montessori Academy
- Ginny Stine, School Nutrition Director
Benton Harbor Charter School Academy
- Sheri Goff, School Nutrition Director
- Deyanira (Jenny) Mendez, School Nutrition Aide
- Oralia Velazquez, School Nutrition Aide
- Joan Johnson, Director of School Nutrition
- Yolanda Radney, School Nutrition Worker
- Robert Dixon, School Nutrition Worker
- Annetta Williams, School Nutrition Worker
- Barbara Brown, School Nutrition Worker
- Christine Driver, School Nutrition Worker
- Latwan Woods, School Nutrition Worker
- Domonique Nash, School Nutrition Worker
- Robert Warfield, School Nutrition Worker
- Estelle Knox, School Nutrition Worker
- Ashley Norfolk, School Nutrition Worker
Creative Montessori Academy
- Carrie Simpson, Nutrition Coordinator
- Sharon Morris, School Nutrition Coordinator
- Ivory Riller-Benson, School Nutrition Aide
Four Corner Montessori Academy
- Alesia Johnson, Breakfast Server
Lake Superior Academy
- Melissa Perron, Administrative Assistant
- Emily Veler, Lunch Aide
Livingston Classical Academy
- Shannon Waldecker, Lunch Aide
Macomb Montessori Academy
- Kenesha Douglas, School Nutrition Director
- Kelly Willis, Lunch and Recess Aide
Muskegon Montessori Academy of Environmental Change
- Adrianne Schmitt, School Nutrition Director
New Branches Charter Academy
- Steven Sallese, School Nutrition Director
- Biella Mancha, Lead Cook
- Makesha Dock, School Nutrition Aide
Three Oaks Public School Academy
- Hasson Jackson, School Nutrition Worker
- Duwanda Wickliffe, School Nutrition Coordinator
- Jerri Hitts, School Nutrition Director
West Michigan Academy of Environmental Science
- Kimberlee Matheny, School Nutrition Director
- Mary Scheibe, Cook
- Abdulkarim “Karim” Alkasem, School Nutrition Aide
- Stephanie Von LaGrave, School Nutrition Aide
- Ashley Werst, School Nutrition Aide
- Jessie Novakowski, School Nutrition Aide
- Karen Williams, School Nutrition Aide