HISD school lunch staff receive superhero status for dedication to serving students

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HISD Nutrition Services and students across the district honored their school lunch staff for School Lunch Hero Day on May 6, including special recognitions at 48 schools. Nutrition Services food service attendants, or “lunch ladies” as they are affectionately known, received poems and letters from students during various events throughout the week.

School Lunch Hero Day is celebrated nationwide to recognize school nutrition professionals and features The Lunch Lady – a crime-fighting character from the “Lunch Lady” graphic novels whose mission is to serve up justice while serving up lunch.

De Zavala Elementary School Librarian Linda Turner prepared and served a special homemade lunch to the cafeteria staff in gratitude for their service. Principal Juan Dueñas said the lunch ladies are a key component to the success of a school.

“They are so incredible and do so much for our students,” Dueñas said. “This recognition is our way of saying thank you for all the work they do.”

Nutrition Services Operations Manager Hernan Urrego described the significance of the work his staff does at De Zavala for their students.

“It’s a big effort,” Urrego said. “Our cafeteria ladies start cooking very early in the morning to provide two, and at some schools, three meals a day plus snacks. They do it happily because they love serving our students.”

De Zavala’s cafeteria staff was touched by the gifts and messages they received from students. Sofia Garza, a 14-year veteran of HISD, said students made her day with their singing and poems. Francisca Zayas, who is finishing her first year with the district, loves serving the students. “This was very special,” Zayas said. “The kids just encouraged me to keep excelling at my job.”

Senior Food Service Attendant Rosa Hernandez said she appreciated the recognition from the students and staff. Hernandez, who survived cancer this year, pointed out that her job as a team lead was a big part of her recovery.

“I feel blessed to be here,” she said. “The kids helped me keep my attention on them and not on my illness.”

Fonwood Early Childhood Center students, teachers and staff organized a student superheroes parade to express their gratitude for the lunch ladies. Senior FSA Mary Howard shed tears as students gave her gifts.

“The students were wonderful,”  Howard said. “We get the 3- and 4 year-olds, and after their teachers, we are the other faces they get to know in school.”

Walnut Bend Elementary School arranged a surprise for their cafeteria staff with appreciation messages from students.

“I saw these great posters made for the lunch ladies and it touched my heart,” said Senior FSA Susana Samaniego.

Cafeteria staff serve an average of 280,000 meals a day to HISD students, which averages about 49 million meals a year.