Today marked the first time Dutchess BOCES celebrated School Lunch Hero Day (May 3), honoring food services staff who work hard to provide healthy meals to students across campus.
Christina Mark, food services office manager, heard about this initiative from the School Nutrition Association’s website and thought it was a great idea to honor those whom she considers unsung heroes. They often have to adapt and change menu plans due to unforeseen circumstances such as late deliveries and snow days to ensure students at the Resilience Academy, Salt Point Center (SPC) and the Pegasus program are fed. Between the three schools, they serve up to 350 meals every day.
“Sometimes it’s the best meal some of these kids will have throughout the day,” Mark said. “People don’t always think about what their day is like and what they do for the kids.”
SPC students made colorful cards to show their appreciation for the workers, who each year immediately get to know the students, as well as their preferences and any dietary restrictions.
“They’re all wonderful and they love the kids,” Mark said. “You can always rely on them.”
Shirley Caraway, Marge Cardinal and Heather Palmieri were overjoyed to each receive a card, a bouquet of flowers and a hug from students Lucas Davies, Jaddyel Japon Labanda, Robert Spaulding and Dakota Coburn.
“It makes you enjoy work all the more,” Caraway said. 
Cardinal always appreciates seeing the kids come in with big smiles on their faces to talk with them.
“I’ve been here 22 years and everyone’s been wonderful,” Cardinal said. “We’re here for the kids.”
Receiving the cards means a lot to Palmieri who was thrilled to read in the card that students like the healthy snacks provided by the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program.
“I’ve gotten to know them by their names and as soon as I see them, they wave to me in the hall,” Palmieri said. “It’s the best.”
Assistant School Business Official Mike Skerritt could not be prouder of food services staff, particularly long-term employees Caraway, Cardinal and Sandy Morgan, who overcame many obstacles as a result of the coronavirus pandemic in order to prepare meals.
“They continually answered the bell and cleared every hurdle to get the job done for our students,” Skerritt said. “I can't thank them enough.”
Skerritt also thanked Mark for keeping the department afloat, and Palmieri and recent hire Heather Pavao at the Resilience Academy for their positive attitude and work ethic.
“Everyone involved is truly is a hero for what they do in support of those we serve,” Skerritt said.