Meet America’s Next Lunchroom Rockstars for ’20-’21

TITAN Celebrates Lunchroom Rockstars LINQ TITAN a LINQ Solution

This post is from a press release we originally published on July 6, 2021 through Globenewswire/Intrado.


It is no small feat to feed our nation’s children during an average school year. Add a global pandemic on top, and making sure students are well fed and ready to learn becomes a major challenge. 

That is why TITAN—a LINQ Solution launched Lunchroom Rockstars, a peer-to-peer nomination program that shines a spotlight on school nutrition professionals who are making a significant impact in their districts and communities. 

“We wanted a way to honor the hardest working people in the industry,” said Krista Endsley, CEO of LINQ. “Lunchroom Rockstars places these stellar individuals directly in the spotlight, giving nominees the recognition they deserve while also buoying the perception of nutrition programs everywhere.”  

As schools prepare to welcome students in person once again, there is no time like the present to celebrate the industrious individuals who fed our children against all odds during the past 18 months. 

Without further ado, allow us to introduce you the winners of Lunchroom Rockstars for the ‘20-’21 school year. 

Meet the Lunchroom Rockstars of ’20-’21

“My passion is putting love in all the food we prepare for the children because we do not know their situations at home and if that will be the only meal they receive that day.”

Carla Word

Carla Word, River Road ISD

Source: River Road ISD

Carla Word, meat cook and Snack Shack manager for River Road ISD in Amarillo, Texas, was nominated by a total of five colleagues. Each nominator noted the Carla’s kindness and passion for their district’s nutrition program.  
 
Arely Diaz, Vice Principal for River Road Middle School, said she is grateful for Word’s loving heart each day.“[Carla] loves the kids like a grandmother would,” Diaz said. “She is devoted and committed to her work and takes great pride in serving delicious and quality food to our students.” 

Word said she views everyone on campus as one big family. She noted that showing each student, coworker, and teacher the love they deserve fuels her. 

“My passion is putting love in all the food we prepare for the children because we do not know their situations at home and if that will be the only meal they receive that day,” Word said. 

“I’m fueled by putting our kids first and making sure we give them quality so that they actually love to come eat [in the cafeteria].” 

Patricia Perez

Patricia Perez, Medina Valley ISD

Source: Medina Valley ISD

Patricia Perez, Cafeteria Manager at Medina Valley ISD in Castroville, Texas, is impassioned to do the work the does for those students who struggle with food insecurity outside of school.  
 
“Knowing that kids don’t always get food at home is my main reason [for working in school nutrition],” Perez said. “I’m fueled by putting our kids first and making sure we give them quality so that they actually love to come eat [in the cafeteria].” 

Medina Valley ISD Assistant Director of Nutrition Services, Sandra Speed, said Patricia always comes to work with a positive attitude and is a great motivator for food service staff members.  

“[Patricia] has wonderful ideas on how to make things work better and is always up for a challenge,” Speed said. “She is a true leader in the foodservice industry and continues to learn as much as she can.” 

“There is nothing more important to me than meeting the most basic needs of children – nourishing their growing bodies.”

Christine Clarahan

Christine Clarahan, School City of Hammond

Source: Christine Clarahan

Christine Clarahan, Director of Food and Nutrition for School City of Hammond, Indiana, stepped up with a reduced team to continue feeding students as COVID-19 closed their schools. According to No Kid Hungry, Clarahan’s team dropped from 160 to just 39, and they could only use six of the 19 districts sites to serve food. And yet, they continued serving breakfast and lunch three times a week to 2,400 students a day. 
 
“There is nothing more important to me than meeting the most basic needs of children – nourishing their growing bodies,” Clarahan said. ”I have worked in a variety of settings with children and have seen children who have experienced true hunger. Once you see that, you will do anything to end it.” 
 
 It’s Clarahan’s drive to ameliorate child hunger and food insecurity in her community is what makes her a true Lunchroom Rockstar. She said was raised to be all in when she is passionate about something. 

“My family raised me to put 100% into whatever I am passionate about in life – and I am passionate about making sure that no kid goes hungry in my community,” Clarahan said. “I continue to strive to do my best each day to “walk the walk” and be an example for my team.” 

“Our world was literally turned upside down, but Team Awesome never missed a beat, and a short 48 hours later our staff was physically on-site serving our first breakfast to what turned out to be hundreds of cars awaiting the meals we had to offer through the car window.”

Patti Bilbrey

Patti Bilbrey, Scottsdale Unified School District

Patti Bilbrey Scottsdale Unified School District Lunchroom Rockstars Winner 20-21

As the Director of Nutrition Services for Scottsdale Unified School District in Arizona, Patti Bilbrey knows what it means to take center stage and stand in the spotlight. She is a fierce advocate for school nutrition and sits on the Board of Directors for the School Nutrition Association (SNA).

Just like any other district over the last 18 months, Bilbrey and her nutrition team had to innovate to accommodate SUSD’s 25,000 students. In March 2021, Bilbrey reflected on Facebook about the significant pivots her team made to ensure students were still fed when schools closed the previous year.

“We were set to return from Spring Break, but instead we juggled staff, cancelled and re-routed multiple food deliveries, and pivoted to a contactless, curbside type of meal service that we had never done before in our history of serving meals,” Bilbrey said. “Our world was literally turned upside down, but Team Awesome never missed a beat, and a short 48 hours later our staff was physically on-site serving our first breakfast to what turned out to be hundreds of cars awaiting the meals we had to offer through the car window.”

“[Patti] was able to pivot her program to be successful and feed her district’s students by quickly changing to a catering-style form of serving, said Mike Gorden, Vice President of Strategic Accounts for TITAN – a LINQ Solution. “I’ve always admired her dedication to do what’s necessary to feed her students.”

Celebrating Lunchroom Rockstars at LINQ’D UP

After a long, arduous year for school nutrition professionals, it is time to have some fun! We are celebrating the Lunchroom Rockstars at an event called LINQ’D UP sponsored by LINQ, NxtGen Network and Tyson. LINQ’D UP is on July 16 from 5-7pm EST.

Marlon Gordon, Owner and CEO of NxtGen Network, emphasized the importance of recognizing the number of school nutrition teams that persevered during the pandemic.

“Child Nutrition has proved to be capable of adapting and even evolving under trying times and we are excited to honor those that have the passion and grit to feed children across the country,” Gordon said.

Jen Smith, a Customer Development Manager K-12 for Tyson Foods, noted she is excited to connect with school nutrition administrators once again.

“We have had to really change how we connect with administrators in a meaningful way over the past year,” Smith said. “LINQ’D UP offers us the unique opportunity to provide educational content to school nutrition professionals in a virtual and in-person environment.” 

LINQ’D UP is a hybrid networking event specifically for school nutrition professionals. During this free, live-streamed event, we will honor and highlight each of the Lunchroom Rockstars winners. Plus, there will be games, huge giveaways, and more. Click here to learn more about LINQ’D UP.

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