Opinion: Your Support of School Nutrition Matters More Than Ever

LINQ’s Senior Director of Sales for State Nutrition explains why it’s more important than ever to support school nutrition.

Matthew Essner

The following piece was written by LINQ Senior Director of Sales Matthew Essner, SNS and shared in a post on his Facebook account. This post comes on the heels of Essner attending the Legislative Action Conference (LAC) in Washington D.C.

Letter from 4th grade student to school nutrition employees matthew essner
LINQ’s Matthew Essner shared a letter written by a fourth grade student with U.S. Congress members during LAC in March.

As I sit on my plane ride home after a beautiful day in our Nation’s Capitol for #LAC22, I can’t help but think about the letter we shared with our Congressmen/women today. This is WHY I love what I do! This is WHY I create relationships with colleagues across our industry to strive for higher standards and efficiencies! This is WHY I’m thankful to the mentors who have taught me along the way! This is WHY the long days, frustrating nights, and never-ending emails are worth it! This is WHY we come together to advocate for the youth of our country to have access to nutritious meals!

The emotion I felt when I read this letter the first time was only surpassed by hearing it read aloud in our first meeting today, and watching my colleagues try to hold it together and read the entire note. We CARE about these kids! Our Lunchroom Rockstars LOVE these kiddos! Our nutrition professionals SACRIFICE by working countless hours to make sure kids have food available so they can learn throughout the school day.

We don’t do it for the glory. We don’t want recognition. We don’t need sympathy. We need SUPPORT!

SUPPORT for students who don’t have a voice at the polls. SUPPORT for programs that allow nutritious meals to be served in environments conducive for students. SUPPORT for the financial burden it takes to provide quality meals for our youth and the workforce to supply the goods and labor.

For now, and always (I can tell you from personal experience), Child Nutrition Professionals will take up our cross with the rules we have in front of us, the uncertainty the future holds, and we will FEED KIDS! We will find a way! We will complete the obnoxious paperwork. We will fill in on the front lines or man the dish machine to get the job done. We will push on because we know our efforts are appreciated by the students we serve who need it the most.  

Dear cafeteria ladies,
Thank you for all the food you make us. I don’t get breakfast at home because I have to quickly get ready, and then there’s no time left. It is very nice of all of you to make everyone in the school lunch and breakfast. It was also very nice to make the food free this year. It helps out a lot.

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Folks, a fourth grader realizing the impact of getting a nutritious meal for free tells me he or she has heard that comment at home. “It helps out a lot.” Kids don’t have to eat at school…that’s a choice the student or parent can make. But not offering the option or making the access cumbersome, is not a choice a student should have to decide. We provide transportation, books, educators, counselors, sports, arts, field trips, etc. to students. Why is nutrition to get a student through the school day treated differently?

When adults are gathered for a meeting, there is food and drink provided so you can focus. When adults gather for celebrations, there is food and drink provided so you can enjoy the fellowship. But when students are gathered to learn (who are too young to earn their own income btw), we make access to food and drink cumbersome and do not provide access to everyone without qualifying them eligible. Adults can make choices on events they attend or where they work…students don’t have the same options unless their parents pay for an educational experience (also out of the student’s control).

I’m not looking to start arguments. If you don’t agree, that’s fine with me, please scroll on. But if you do agree with providing students access to nutritious meals while they are at school, we would value your SUPPORT!

Be KIND and SUPPORT your local school nutrition professionals. They are dealing with high prices, unstable inventories, shortage of labor, and scrutiny from parents.

Be THANKFUL and SUPPORT access to nutritious food throughout the school day.

Lastly, be JOYFUL and SUPPORT nourishing our future! God-willing, one day they will be caring for you!