I’ll tell you all something I have learned recently in my last year or so of service. The majority of food service staff I have had the pleasure to work with are fearless and open-minded trail blazers. They don’t balk at change or new federal lunch regulations. They solider on, adapting to new ways to serve up delicious, healthy meals for their students and staff. Did I mention they rarely complain and always seem to be smiling? Because Valentine’s Day is on the horizon, consider this my early love letter to the ladies who serve lunch in Allamakee Community Schools.
Since I have walked their hallways, I have asked my food service staff for thousands of favors and requests. Taste tests – sure! Can we highlight local foods on our menu -yes mam! Use my garden produce – you bet! Help me water the greenhouse over break – surely! Hang up my sign – always! Use your dishwasher – yes, but please don’t break it. They had fed me, laughed with me, listened to me, counseled me, and now they are helping me spice up students’ lives each and every day. Food Service Director Julie Magner introduced the idea of a “spice station”, an idea borrowed from a food service meeting. We are following in the foot steps of Decorah, who has a similar station at their high school.
Our spice station made its debut in the high school earlier this week. For something so simple, the newness has caused a quiet revolution (but we are only a few days in). The station is a cart that holds twelve different spices (such as black pepper, cumin, or garlic powder) that students can sprinkle on their lunch. How did we introduce the new concept? Day 1 – I stood behind the station, advertising via word of mouth. Day 2 – we moved the station to a more convenient location, I stood a few feet away. Day 3 – I hid and watched the station like a naturalist observing animals in the wild.
What did I see? I saw students (about 30 each lunch) using the spices! They asked me for recommendations. Students asked EACH OTHER for advice, friends helped friends sprinkle if hands were full. They thanked us for trying something new. Most importantly, students tried things! The lunch ladies and I watched in quiet amazement. It’s a rare moment seeing older students let down their guard. Watching students encourage each other to try something new made my day. Without the support of our food service staff, our spice station would not have been possible. Next on my agenda – grow our own spices to dry and put on the station! We have some parsley thriving in the greenhouse. And if I know my food service staff, they are game for trying anything I can throw at them.