Lakeside (Calif.) Union School District
Nominator: Sally Spero, child nutrition director, Lakeside Union SD
Reason for nomination: “When Lakeside [schools] closed on Friday, March 13, Leigh Anne immediately went to work planning for drive-thru meal service to begin on Monday March 16. As the district’s full-time baker, she already knew that school meals don’t just feed students’ bodies, they can provide fun, variety and a moment of respite for stressed children and families. She already knew which items were the children’s favorites and made sure that they were included as part of the drive-thru breakfasts and lunches including her signature banana chocolate chip coffee cake and, of course, all varieties of cookies.
But that was only the beginning.
School serving staff members who were available for work were reassigned to the central kitchen. She had to quickly train them into bakers, including those who never baked at home. But in a few days, they were turning commodity peaches into fruit empanadas and making biscuit dough like pros. This included having to train them on stricter food safety standards during the crisis.
As one of the nearby casinos closed, generous food donations began arriving. Now casinos and schools don’t usually service the same clientele or style of meals, but that is where her skills and creativity really came into play. Fresh poblano peppers were made into Southwestern corn bread. Ricotta cheese became a coffee cake as did fresh zucchini and carrots. Perhaps the most fun she had was turning gallons of chocolate milk into chocolate pudding, adding crushed sweet crackers and running to the store for some gummi worms to make dirt cups. Later, a load of fresh lemons became ‘beach cups’ topped with a gummi shark.
She also had to rework some popular choices. When the hot dog bun supply was disrupted, hot dogs were wrapped in housemade biscuit dough. A shortage of sliced bread for grilled cheese sandwiches involved the development of ‘Anne’s Zombie’ a cheese biscuit stuffed with cheese. The list goes on and on.
Thanks to this Hunger Hero, our meal counts have stayed high as other programs have seen theirs fade. Every day (including now extra food for the weekends) we serve 900 to 1200 breakfasts and lunches. We have been able to maintain scratch cooking, reduce the amount of processed foods our children consume and maintain our commitment to our outstanding baking program.”