Melody Lockhart

Mary Meixner 

Alma Area Schools (WI)

Hello, my name is Mary Meixner and I work at the Alma School District as the Foodservice Director, head cook, and many other jobs as needed in the kitchen.  I work in a small rural school district where we have less than 250 children PK-12 and we are all in one building.  Our district feels like family,

I started my career at Alma Area School in SY2019-20, February 4, to be exact!  I was so excited, nervous, all the feels.  As I got to know the routine, my job became a little easier.  I had never worked in foodservice in this form before; Restaurants, nursing homes, and bars are a totally different atmosphere.  Then covid hit after 6 weeks of work and the school was immediately shut down.  I had no idea what to do next.  I just started my job, very little training, and now the world shut down.  Our school came up with a plan immediately, we started making meals and our school bus drivers delivered to those in need.   This went on for the entire summer.  We ended up serving close to 200 meals breakfast and lunch daily.

We reopened our doors in the fall of 2020-21, and it was full bor.  I was still trying to get all my training done.  Long story short, the school year went off without a hitch!! Yahoo!!!!  We made it through with all the supply change shortages, rules to follow in house, we did it!! Then in SY2021-22, we were off running.  We still had bumps in the road, but we were managing.  Life wasn’t too bad.  Everyone in my department accepted the way we had to prepare, serve, and clean without any complaints.  We were all so happy to be in school. 

February of 2022 changed my life forever.  I was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer, and I was out.  I thank my lucky stars every day that I had a plan for the whole entire year.  For the most part, I was able to do ordering, menu planning, and all paperwork from home.  There were times that my staff had to make decisions on the fly, and they preserved and handled the situation like rock stars. 

I can never repay my staff for being by my side in my absence. 

The start of the 2022-23 school year came, and I was back at work full time, cancer free.  Along with being back full time, I faced new challenges.  In the past, we had almost 100% participation in breakfast and lunch... now we are lucky to have 50% for breakfast and 75% for lunch.  I have seen the negative of not serving free breakfast and lunch anymore.  I struggle with this and wonder if there is anything I can do to improve involvement.  I’m sure there is, but what?  If I were to be the recipient of this hunger hero award, I would donate this money to our negative lunch accounts so that our kids could eat without having to worry about how they will get a meal at school.  For all that my community gave to me, this is my way of giving back for all they did.  I am a hunger hero for life!!!!!

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