No Kid Hungry values the heroes on the ground in the fight against hunger, including the dedicated school staff who work tirelessly day in and day out to ensure that children are getting the food they need.
This heartwarming HuffPost article featuring cafeteria manager Stacey Truman is a shining example of the many unsung heroes who go above and beyond for the children in their communities. Truman, who has worked at Kingston Elementary School in Virginia Beach for 18 years, does more than make sure each child is fed. She also nourishes them in other ways like writing encouraging notes on the fruit they eat for breakfast—an idea that emerged from the daily messages she wrote for her two daughters when she packed their school lunches.
According to Truman, “Really what being a cafeteria worker is all about is the kids. I hope they learn from me, but I learn from them, too. The biggest lesson they’ve taught me is how to love.”
Truman, who begins her day at 4 a.m., and is usually the last person to leave the school building at the end of the day, finds other ways to show her love for the students. In addition to the special notes that she writes on each piece of fruit, she also paints artwork displaying the students’ beloved television and movie characters exchanging positive messages. She also brightens the school cafeteria with holiday decorations. Everything she creates is paid for with her own money.
Although cafeteria workers rarely receive thanks or accolades for their hard work, what matters most to Truman is making sure that the school children know that they are seen and loved.
“You never know what a child is going through at home,” she shares. “You might be the only person showing them kindness or feeding them that day. Even if you aren’t, the simple act of feeding a child one, two or even three meals a day is important.”
No Kid Hungry’s Impact on Virginia Beach Public Schools
Kingston Elementary School is part of Virginia Beach Public Schools, which is one of many school districts that No Kid Hungry has supported over the years. No Kid Hungry, with the help of grants and donors, made it possible for more kids to get free or reduced-price school breakfast by aiding in the expansion of the breakfast after the bell program throughout the Virginia Beach school district.
Other areas of school meals support have included a full-time No Kid Hungry representative, Marissa Spady, who lived in southeast Virginia to support local schools. Spady worked closely with school and community partners to improve and strengthen systems and resources, develop strategies to fight community hunger, and assist with outreach across a multitude of child nutrition programs. These efforts not only helped the Southeast Virginia region expand its breakfast, summer and afterschool meal programs, but also enabled it to become the first region in the state to achieve the goal of ensuring that 70% of its students who receive a free or reduced-price lunch could also get school breakfast.
Stacey Truman explains how cafeteria work changed during the COVID-19 pandemic. She recognized that for many kids who rely on school meals, they’re often the only ones they have during the day. When Truman and her staff packed breakfasts, lunches and dinners, they made it easy for children or parents to go straight to the school and pick them up. And when things shifted again, and students were learning both in-person and remotely, Truman and her staff worked extra hard to prepare meals for both challenging scenarios.
During this time, No Kid Hungry provided grants to Virginia Beach Public Schools for COVID emergency assistance and mobile meals support. In 2020, an emergency response grant supported the district’s meals operations at all school sites and off-site meal service locations. This included financial support for purchasing equipment (meal service supplies like coolers and storage equipment), tents to support food service staff, and marketing and outreach strategies to increase awareness of school meals programs.
Support from No Kid Hungry also helped the school district implement meal pick-up sites at 30 schools, with the addition of five neighborhood meal distribution centers, which enabled them to serve about 10,000 meals per day. And a 2021 school nutrition grant helped them purchase food truck equipment for the interior of an available truck, from refrigeration and storage to electrical and plumbing, which supported the expansion of school meal delivery into more neighborhoods.
As a result, Virginia Beach Public Schools was able to provide a total of 1,727,768 school meals from the 2020 pandemic shutdown to the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year.
Ways to Help
We all have different strengths to share in the fight to ensure every child in the United States gets the food they need. Whatever your strength, there’s a way you can share it to help kids.
Donate. Just $10 can help provide up to 100 meals for hungry kids. No Kid Hungry works with schools, community organizations, and local leaders across the country to connect kids to the food they need. Your generous donations will help end hunger for kids across the country.