Celebrate These School Lunch Heroes with Us! 

Six stories about standout K-12 nutrition leaders we’re celebrating on School Lunch Hero Day.

School Lunch Hero Day

It’s School Lunch Hero Day on May 3, and we’d like to recognize some standout K-12 nutrition leaders doing amazing work at their schools. From ensuring program success to supporting staff members and creating unforgettable experiences for students, these heroes earn their status every day. 

Please join us in celebrating these and every school food service hero ensuring that students get the delicious meals they need to learn, grow, and thrive.

Phil Broyles, Nutrition Director | Willard Public Schools in Missouri 

Saved 20 hours per week for staff members by implementing technology that automates production records  

School nutrition staff members work hard every day to make sure students get healthy, delicious food. From preparing meals to keeping lunch lines moving and cleaning kitchens, cookware, and countertops, it all adds up to a full day. Adding tasks like counting inventory, entering purchase orders, and completing production records can make it overwhelming.  

That’s why Phil Broyles led the implementation of a software solution designed to automate processes and save his staff enough time to focus on what matters most. He tells us that automating production records with LINQ Nutrition saves around 20 hours per week across the district.  

Julie Garcia, Director of Food Services | Culver City Unified School District in California 

Making digital payments inclusive of all students by enabling on-site meal account funding 

Cashless payments can make life much easier for cafeteria staff while improving payment security and giving families visibility into students’ purchases. However, going digital isn’t an easy transition for every family. Julie Garcia at Culver City Unified School District found a creative way to gain the benefits of going cashless while making the switch accessible and inclusive of every student. 

Because her district uses LINQ Connect, student meal accounts can be funded in real time. Garcia set up a cafeteria payment window for students who bring cash. They can fund their account on the spot without the need for families to use online banking or credit cards. “We call it the ‘Pay the Lady Window,’” she says. It’s an easy way for students to deposit enough cash for a single meal or as much as they’d like. They can then make their purchases and the amount is charged to their digital account.  

Lori Drenth, Director of Food and Nutrition Services | Hernando County School District in Florida 

Saved managers from driving to each site to complete menu planning and production records 

Lori Drenth’s 24,000-student Florida district used disparate K-12 nutrition management software at each building. They lacked an overall view of data and information, and managers overseeing multiple buildings often had to travel to each site to complete tasks like production records, inventory, and menu planning. Drenth knew there had to be a better way, so she set about looking for a single solution that would offer a holistic view of operations and eliminate the need to travel between buildings to complete routine tasks.  

When Drenth discovered that LINQ Nutrition offered a fully integrated front of house (FOH) and back of house (BOH) solution, she advocated for the district to implement it. They did, giving her team remote access to complete tasks from any building, see real-time data and analytics, and automate tasks for simplicity and time savings. Drenth gave her team the tools to reign in complexity and eliminate unnecessary commutes to save time, gas money, and stress.  

Katie Cossette, MDA, RDN, SNS, Director of Nutrition | St. Vrain Valley School District in Colorado 

Enabled digital meal application forms for families, removing a significant barrier and simplifying the process 

Katie Cossette saved families in her district a trip across the county to pick up their free and reduced-price meal applications. In a county covering 411 square miles, that adds up to significant time and cost savings. “We can’t print their letter and send it,” she explains, “so some families would have to drive across the whole district just to ask us to print their letter.”  

Using LINQ Connect, their nutrition solution’s integrated online portal and payments app, families can access and print eligibility letters and application instructions at home, 24/7. Using the system for meal applications removes a significant barrier for families eligible for free and reduced-price meal benefits. 

Dawndrea Daly, Food Service Director | Platte County School District #2 in Wyoming 

Secures grant money to fund food-related student activities, including vegetable gardening and baking lessons

RISE Award winner Dawndrea Daly gives students in her Wyoming district a one-of-a-kind nutrition experience, complete with learning to grow and prepare their food. “I do this job for the kids,” she says. She manages most nutrition program operations herself in the small rural district, so she uses her integrated FOH and BOH LINQ Nutrition solution to automate and simplify tasks. That gives her time to apply for and secure grant money to fund student-focused experiences like vegetable gardening, baking lessons, and delivering food to community organizations.  

Solidifying her status as a school lunch hero, Wyoming First Lady Jennie Gordon invited her to a special luncheon in 2021 to recognize her exceptional contributions. She goes above and beyond to serve up much more than delicious school meals to Platte County students. 

Tricia Kastelitz, RDN, SNS, Coordinator of Nutrition Services & Angela Howell M.A.Ed, Nutrition Services Compliance Coordinator | Suffolk Public Schools in Virginia 

Generate additional revenue through à la carte sales to buy supplies and custom shirts for staff, as well as fund a delivery truck wrap designed by the winner of a student art contest

Tricia Kastelitz and Angela Howell work together to support their staff and make nutrition fun for students. They developed an à la carte sales program to offer popular drinks and snacks, generating thousands of dollars in additional revenue each month. The extra income enables them to update and purchase equipment and tools to make staff members’ jobs easier, as well as supply items like winter coats for the freezer and embroidered polos to make work more enjoyable. “Everybody got a personalized branded polo, book bags, and gifts for the holidays,” says Howell. It’s their way of giving back to their dedicated staff.  

The additional à la carte revenue also enabled Suffolk to pay for a custom vinyl wrap instead of simply repainting their delivery trucks. Kastelitz and Howell invited students to show off their creativity to design them. “We had an art contest,” says Kastelitz, “and the trucks are getting wrapped with student art.” Not only will they have some of the best-looking delivery trucks in town, but students can take pride in showing off their creativity.