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Meet the Tyson K-12 Hunger Heroes

We want to celebrate K-12 foodservice operators who go above and beyond to serve up smiles to children along with nutritious and delicious meals. Thank you to ALL the Hunger Heroes out there in action every day! We're proud to serve your mission!

  

Mel Lockhart IllustrationMelody Lockhart

Dayton Elementary, Dayton, PA

 

Melody’s staff says there is something special about working at Dayton Elementary School. They care about the children they serve. They take pride and a personal interest in the students’ well-being. She goes out of her way to make sure staff are aware of the students with food-sensitive allergies to keep the kids safe. But more than that, she tries to help students overcome their allergy struggles by offering them other healthy food options.

One example of Melody’s passion for her students is with a kindergarten student who was very shy and wanted to run from the building after being dropped off in the mornings. The teachers had to all work together to keep an extra eye on him all day. During the holiday’s the cafeteria staff moved an elf in fun ways each day for the children to find during lunch. The kids loved coming to lunch to look for him, especially the young, shy, boy. While the other students were having an activity in the gym next to the cafeteria, he ran to Melody and held her hand and asked her all about the elf. Since that day, he formed a special bond with Melody. He now enters each morning to head to class, but first getting a breakfast from the cart and saying hello to Mrs. Mel! She always acknowledges him by name and wishes him a good day. Lately he’s even began to open up more at lunch and talking with the staff about what he likes on his tray.

Another example is a shy student who struggles with anxiety. Melody noticed he only ate from a packed lunch, everyday bringing a sandwich that was cut into fun shapes using cookie cutters. Melody brought him some fun new cutters for him to try. In caring she has developed a relationship with him and his parents. Now each morning he gets out of mom’s car and head in the door to Mrs. Mel to get a hug and encouragement to start his day. Through this friendship he has started wanting to try the school lunch. His first time thru the line (which took a year), the entire staff could have cried. He ate every bite. Sitting there eating and smiling. No anxiety, just a boy eating lunch with his classmates.

Food brings us together. Food can heal if you care enough like Melody. When children come to lunch at Dayton Elementary, they know the staff cares by the smiles on their faces and the appealing food they serve. Melody has served their food service program for 34 years. She truly sees beyond the job and brings personal joy to each day – making her a perfect fit as a Tyson K-12 Hunger Hero.

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Lucinda Darby

Bloomfield High School, Bloomfield, NM 

 

Bloomfield School's High School Manager is Lucinda Darby.  Lucinda has managed the high school kitchen and summer school program for 28 years. During the first wave of COVID in 2020, when schools were shut down, Lucinda managed the parent pick-up of meals at the high school. Now with schools back open, she still runs the parent pick-up of meals when schools are shut down while simultaneously preparing breakfast and lunch for her students at the high school.  A tall lady, almost reaching 5 feet, she works nonstop preparing nutritious meals for kids in our community. One of the stories that stands out to Lucinda’s peers is the time they spotted her running to catch up with a teacher to make sure a particular student knew about our pick-up of meals at the high school. It was a student who came every day during the shut-down on their bike to pick up breakfast and lunch. As the student rode off, Lucinda commented that she was glad he was eating. Through all the food shortages, staff issues, and new norms we are all adjusting to, Lucinda knew at the heart of all of this – the mission was to ensure no child would go hungry. Lucinda is the type of person who really takes the time to know her students and ask how they are doing. For the past 28 years she’s served meals with love and concern – making her a perfect example of a Tyson K-12 Hunger Hero.  

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Becky Rix

Nueva Vista Continuation High School, Jurupa Valley, CA 

 

Becky worked tirelessly during the COVID shutdown to serve students. She always has a smile on her face and kind words for everyone. Her spirit and energy are contagious. You can't be sad around Becky; she will brighten your day and you will leave with a smile on your face. This school year, Becky got promoted to cafeteria manager at the high school. She made it her mission to get to know each student. Even though they have masks on their faces, she knows who they are. Becky takes an interest in every student. She cares so deeply for each and every one of her students. One student in particular caught Becky's attention. In talking to the student, Becky realized that she was homeless and living behind a dumpster. Becky quickly reached out to her Director of Nutrition and to the Principal to see what could be done to help this student.  The student received the help that she needed and now is living in a group home and not on the streets. Becky makes sure this student gets every meal available every day. She really looks after this student. Before the Christmas break, Becky wanted to make sure that this student would be covered for the three-week break. Becky reached out again, and Nutrition Services provided the student with a backpack full of food for the three-week break as well as some treats to help make the holidays a bit brighter. Becky goes out of her way to make students feel seen, welcomed, and loved – making her a true Tyson K-12 Hunger Hero.

Kris LarsenKris Larsen Illustration

Gilbert Intermediate School, Gilbert, IA

 

Miss Kris is the cook captain at Gilbert Intermediate School. Kris has made it a priority to build relationships with her students and is always a friendly face to her kids. Kris embraced the idea of student kitchen helpers and works well with the teaching and office staff to acknowledge that her kids are leaders! She empowered the kids to help set up the TigerTeria (their cafeteria) and demonstrated patience while showing them how to clean up, refill condiment bottles and more! Kris is more than a Cook Captain. Kris is a leader who has empowered those around her to be leaders. The kids love waving as she jams out to music between breakfast and lunch serves. They always know that they will get a friendly smile and hug from Miss Kris!!  Gilbert Intermediate is blessed to have Miss Kris advocating for our kids and serving breakfast and lunch to 350 kids!! For her service, Miss Kris is a Tyson K-12 Hunger Hero.

Rhonda Green IllustrationRhonda Green

Rivercrest High School, Wilson, AR

 

In the fall of 2021, the staff at Rivercrest would have said they felt like beginners, novices, confused, and simply put, not sure what they were doing! New leadership in the district and a new Child Nutrition Director led to a rocky start for Rivercrest School District. Their district is nestled in the Arkansas Delta right at the edge of the Mighty Mississippi, with a rich heritage of hospitality and, of course, good home style meals. But the new Child Nutrition Director, Rhonda Green, knows how important those meals are to their children, especially with the large number of Free and Reduced Lunch students in their rural area.

Rhonda was new and there was little help they could provide her from the central office. But that didn’t stop her for pushing forward and learning the ins and outs of cafeteria business.  Once she conquered the technology challenges, and then the massive paperwork, it was time to get students and teachers excited about their meal choices. During the very first meeting to look at food choices, we asked if our students could have bottled water, less than 12 hours later water was on the line.  It was amazing how happy a simple thing like bottled water could make a teenager excited. Now it was time for choices and the cafeteria line begin to get a makeover. The staff took classes on baking homemade pizza and began trying the new recipes provided by our food service, School Eats. They knew this was a big step in the middle of the school year, but Mrs. Green led those ladies with clear expectations and a heart for the children’s needs.  As new ideas were suggested, the students got better access to their breakfast line, Mrs. Green was right there at the front of the line giving the suggestions a chance to work.

We were impressed with Mrs. Green when she got called late one Friday afternoon and she quickly suggested she would drive back to work and help. The very next morning she was just outside of the cafeteria at the break of dawn unloading a truck by herself. These are the little things that go unnoticed with so many people in food service. We rarely get a chance to simply say, thank you. So, thank you, Mrs. Green.  It has only been a few months since you started this journey as director, but your dedication and willingness to support child nutrition has made a difference.  Students eating breakfast has tripled and the cafeteria lines are growing and glowing with happy faces.  Mrs. Rhonda Green is a Tyson K-12 Hunger Hero, and her staff is excited to continue to grow with her by their side.

Lori Cochran IllustrationLori Cochran

Holt Middle School, Fayetteville, AR

 

This is a very special posthumous recognition. Lori Cochran was a beloved child nutrition employee at Holt Middle School. She’d served a mission of feeding kids for 30 years and was planning to retire at the end of the school year. Sadly, she passed away suddenly in mid-January and her loss was felt deeply across the entire department. Lori Cochran was a very special person. She always had the biggest smile for her coworkers and students and truly loved being a lunch lady. She knew all of her students by name and would often call her students and coworkers "baby" or "sweetheart". Her love for her students and her passion for child nutrition was honored with a beautiful memorial that was actually held at her home school of Holt Middle School. Lori Cochran will be remembered, and she’ll always be a Tyson K-12 Hunger Hero.

Colleen Lunch Hero

COLLEEN ZENO

Upper Dublin High School, Upper Dublin School District

 

Colleen Zeno, Kitchen Manager at Upper Dublin High School, has gone above and beyond to feed all the students in our district including community members since the start of the Covid closure. How you may ask? By innovating the way we feed the students by providing 7 days’ worth of breakfast and lunch meals in a curbside pick-up bundle, connecting with school bus drivers to do home deliveries, and even feeding the students who are in-person learners in the cafeteria all at the same time. She has made it all possible even when she was only 30% staffed for half the year. Colleen has even earned the title Tetris Queen of the freezer because her goal is to serve nutritious healthy meals from scratch utilizing the commodity foods on hand. Even when we had our backs against the walls, Colleen never doubted, never gave up, and failed to have a smile on her face to encourage the staff during this heartbreaking year. She embodies school nutrition like no one I have ever known and deserves all the accolades possible.

cynthia

CYNTHIA NELLIGAN

Baggett Elementary, Gwinnett County Public Schools

 

Every holiday Cynthia goes out her way to have monthly themes to put a smile on the faces of our students. The cafeteria always looks wonderful and warm. She goes out of her way to make sure all students are happy and smiling. She even makes sure that our students that are having a financial hardship get enough to eat. The students sometimes ask for an extra apple or juice. She has no problem making sure that they are fed a healthy meal each day. Each child has a story and she is always lending an ear to listen. When we have families in need of furniture, Cynthia help to organize and deliver beds and furniture to those families. She also makes sure that the other lunchroom workers get time in their schedule to visit classrooms to educate students about good nutrition. She even does extra treats for the faculty and staff to put a smile on their faces. Her going that extra mile during the Covid-19 pandemic does not go unnoticed. That is why Cynthia is my hero! She is more than just someone who works in our lunchroom. She is a major part of team of caring individuals that work hard to make the lives of others better each day.

jennifer Lunch Hero

JENNIFER GARDNER

Angleton Junior High School, Angleton ISD

 

When the COVID pandemic caused our schools to close, we knew that we had to do something to feed our students. One of our managers, Jennifer Gardner, came to me wanting to help. We decided to start small and grow as needed. We opened up one curbside feeding site and sent our three buses out into the community. By the time we ended, we had two curbside pick-up locations and five buses that made over 50 stops total. We fed hundreds of thousands of meals. I could not have pulled our feeding plan off without Jennifer's help. She ordered the food, moved inventory around to decrease food loss, problem solved issues and kept our staff sane. Jennifer is the reason we were able to make sure so many of our students had food to eat. Angleton ISD is a very large district as far as mileage goes. Many of our students do not have the means to come into town to pick up meals. Our student population is over 72% economically disadvantaged and food insecure. There are many areas in our community that are food deserts. Without our feeding program and Jennifer's work, our students would have been hungry.

john lunch hero

JOHN BERNOZZI

Andover Elementary, Orange County Public Schools

 

When you think of the definition of "Dedicated" you will think of John Bernozzi. I have supervised him for the past 8 years and have been a front row witness to his devotion and commitment to the students of Orange County Public Schools. He possesses a high level of dedication, integrity, and loyalty and that is why I am nominating him as a School Lunch Hero. Throughout the years he has been a great leader to his staff. He always celebrates them, from their birthdays and giving gifts and gift cards for Christmas and other holidays, to taking them to a nice restaurant at the end of every school year to thank them. He goes above and beyond to engage students so that he not only understands their needs and obtains his customer's voice but also ensures that he provides a warm, welcoming, and stimulating experience when they enter his cafeteria. Prior to the pandemic John regularly scheduled focus groups, taste testings and fun activities with his students to capture their feedback about their dining experience. He also partnered with the coaches to create commercials of them taste testing new nutritious menu items to create a buzz and excitement. His students and faculty were so engaged and excited that this subsequently increased his sales and participation. He and his team regularly decorate their kitchen and cafeteria and dress up in costumes for specially events and holidays. During this COVID-19 pandemic, he makes sure that no child in need goes without meals. One day he found out that a Parent was upset that they missed the curbside time and was unable to get their child the week’s meals from our Monday curbside distribution. On Tuesday John had them come to pick up their child's week of meals, even though he couldn’t claim them. He wanted to make sure that their child had food for the week. Another time a Parent came after 5pm unaware of our ending time and John was just leaving to go inside. Again even though it was after the serving time and he would not be able to claim them, he asked the parent and child to come to the side door where he met them outside and gave them the curbside week’s meals. In both instances the parents were undoubtedly appreciative and grateful for him going above the call of duty to serve their child. It is this dedication that propels him into a league of his own. He is always very professional, courteous, superbly organized, and consistently thinks about ways to improve his performance. He is dedicated to providing stellar customer service to his school community and is a model member of the OCPS family. This is why I know he is a great School Lunch Hero!

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Wendy Burrus of Farmington

Since school closed in March, Wendy’s team packed and distributed meals to students through volunteer delivery drivers. Twice a week, the child nutrition team met to pack enough meals to last until the next delivery date. Then volunteers from the school district staff would load the meals up and get assigned delivery routes.

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Melissa Bryan of Copperas Cove

Melissa had two simple goals: feed as many kids as possible, and keep her staff employed. She set up three grab-and-go sites, with tents and ponchos donated from Tyson Foods, so she and her staff could serve meals rain or shine.

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Jenny Arredondo of San Antonio

Jenny serves in a school district where 90% of kids receive free and reduced meals. During COVID-19, her team served 90,000 meals a day, including breakfast and lunch. They even expanded their distribution sites, so families without cars could walk to pick up food. By the end of summer, they had served 2 million meals.

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Agnes Lally of Garden Grove USD

When COVID-19 hit in March, Agnes and her team set up 13 sites to provide breakfast and lunch to kids. By the end of June, they had fed over 1.2 million meals.

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