Animated image of Mo Shamali

Mo Shamali

Kentwood Public Schools (MI)

Submitted by Kris Curtis

This letter is to let you know about a truly amazing person, Mo Shamali, foodservice director at Kentwood Public Schools. Mo has been the director at Kentwood Public Schools for 32 years. In those 32 years, his passion and enthusiasm for his kids has grown more with each passing year, and if you knew him when he started, you would say that seems impossible since he began his K-12 career like a firecracker back in 1992.

Mo has a culinary degree and worked as the Executive Chef at The Amway Grand Hotel and conference center in Grand Rapids, MI prior to coming to KPS. He came to KPS knowing he could make a difference. He was an integral part of supporting both HPS and GLC (Great Lakes Consortium) in their early pioneering days. 

He continues his support today serving as a senior board member on the GLC board of directors. He is respected by everyone who works with him, which allows him to have an influential voice on items and ideas as it pertains to the State of Michigan. He has led committees within GLC to get more fresh fruits and vegetables into schools in Michigan among other committees of change.

KPS is a highly diverse district that provides meals to over 9,000 students that collectively speak over 75 different languages. You can see Mo on any given day over the lunch hours, high fiving and calling students by name. He can also be seen cooking and working in the kitchen. It is clear to see the adoration the kids feel for him—he knows how to connect with the students on a personal level and make them feel important.

He also shows the kids how much he cares by putting everything he has into the meals that are served each day. Here are just a few notable things: Only fresh fruit and vegetables are served; all canned products have been eliminated. He and his staff have greatly increased semi-scratch recipes/cooking to all campus menus. He purchased a large smoker to prepare raw commodity chicken and beef for the students. He will occasionally roast prime rib for middle and HS students. He is constantly meeting with his staff for feedback and ideas on how to make things better. He only wants the very best for the students.

He created the most extensive Ramen bar ever created. He had extra staff come in and worked tirelessly himself to make it happen. He also videotaped what he did step by step so he could share with other schools and make it easier for them. He was the first one to promote the bone in wings in Michigan. He did so with such enthusiasm that it was their biggest participation day to date and still is every Wednesday!

Mo is planning on retiring in a year but instead of slowing down, he has been remodeling all the elementary kitchens from satellite to production kitchens so they can produce fresher, crisper, and healthier meals. He also gladly picked up the lead concessions role and is also staying on longer to train his replacement properly. In November, Governor Whitmer visited KPS for a segment highlighting free meals for Michigan.  Mo knows what it means to love his work! He finds great meaning behind it because he takes the ultimate amount of pride is what he does!

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