Congratulations to our 2024 School Nutrition Heroes! 

May 3rd, 2024 is National School Lunch Hero Day! To celebrate, Nebraska SNAC reached out to administrators, teachers, parents, and community members and asked them to share comments about school nutrition heroes in their communities. 

We received comments honoring school nutrition staff heroes from all over Nebraska!!

The Nebraska Department of Education Nutrition Services posted these honorees on their social media accounts (Facebook and X/Twitter) throughout April. Check out stories of their amazing work below:

Becky Croghan and Dani Arduser, School Nutrition Professionals

“Becky and Danni go above and beyond to make sure that all students get the best meals that they can provide. Danni is known for making a great yogurt parfait and Becky is well known for finding nutritious ways to spice up the main course meals to everyone’s liking. But the biggest difference maker is the way they have built relationships with our students to the point Becky and Danni are adult mentors for some of our students.”

– Honored by Jeff Heimes, 7-12 Principal, Battle Creek Public Schools

“Mrs. Brooks is an outstanding cook. She goes above and beyond to prepare healthy meals for our school community. She loves interacting with the kids and always has a smile on her face. Mrs. Brooks exhibits the Trojan Way at Cambridge Public Schools.”

– Honored by Mike Nanfito, Principal, Cambridge Public School

“Ms Caren is always providing new and fun food items on our menu to keep the kids entertained and excited about school lunch. She works with our staff to provide the best meals for our students with certain disease states and special diets. This year with the fresh fruits and vegetables program, she i having our students try a lot of new fruits and veggies that they have never even seen before, and our students are enjoying it and talking to their parents about it at home! We are so grateful for Ms. Caren and all of our cafeteria staff that keep us fed and with a smile on their faces!”

– Honored by Dawn Hansen, Tech Director and Health Coordinator, Cedar Bluffs Public High School

“Amanda goes above and beyond for the students of Dorchester every single day! She has transformed our cafeteria to a place that is friendly and welcoming for students and staff. Each child that enters our school cafeteria is provided with healthy, tasty, and attractive food, and each child is made to feel welcomed, special, and appreciated. She has increased the choices students have and has added many new items to the menu that students LOVE! Thank you Amanda for all you do!”

Honored by Jake Wiese, PK-12 Principal, Dorchester Public Schools

Angel Perez, Head Cook

“Our food service staff are the secret ingredient to the nourishment and joy experienced by the children and staff in the program. With a passion for both creativity with new foods and child nutrition, they go above and beyond to ensure that every meal served is not only delicious but also packed with essential nutrients.”

– Honored by Teena Branson, ESU13 Head Start Enrollment Manager

Delia Montemayor, Assistant Cook

“Our food service staff are the secret ingredient to the nourishment and joy experienced by the children and staff in the program. With a passion for both creativity with new foods and child nutrition, they go above and beyond to ensure that every meal served is not only delicious but also packed with essential nutrients.”

– Honored by Teena Branson, ESU13 Head Start Enrollment Manager

Louise Leisy, Cook

“Our food service staff are the secret ingredient to the nourishment and joy experienced by the children and staff in the program. With a passion for both creativity with new foods and child nutrition, they go above and beyond to ensure that every meal served is not only delicious but also packed with essential nutrients.”

– Honored by Teena Branson, ESU13 Head Start Enrollment Manager

Mary Hascall, Nutrition Manager

“Our food service staff are the secret ingredient to the nourishment and joy experienced by the children and staff in the program. With a passion for both creativity with new foods and child nutrition, they go above and beyond to ensure that every meal served is not only delicious but also packed with essential nutrients.”

– Honored by Teena Branson, ESU13 Head Start Enrollment Manager

Connie, Susan, Tammy, and Christine, Head Cook and Assistant Cooks

“Our hot lunch program has grown leaps and bounds since Ms. Connie and her crew have taken over. The students love their food, students stay on campus to eat regularly and they go back for seconds. No child ever goes hungry when these ladies are serving up the delicious food. They have huge servants hearts and they serve up the food with a smile. The kids and adults love them. Thank you for what you do!”

– Honored by Serina, School Nurse, Fullerton Public Schools

Valerie Schaaf, Starr Elementary Nutritional Staff

“Valerie makes sure that breakfast and lunch is a fun and welcoming experience for our Starr Stallions! She and her staff are kind and look for novel ways to engage the students. “

– Honored by Selena Valentine, Principal, Grand Island Public Schools

Charlee Henry, Head Kitchen Staff and Kitchen Manager

“Char and all of her kitchen staff are the most positive and patient people I know. I enjoy being around them and the students look forward to seeing them every day! They know nearly every¬†

student’s name…and if they don’t, they make it a point to ask them what their name is. That makes our students feel special. Char and her kitchen staff go above and beyond to make connections with our students. Char is a true hero!”

– Honored by Beth Vos, HAL Facilitator, Gretna Public Schools

“Char and her team know the majority of our students and something about them. They make coming to school enjoyable and truly love to see all students. Harvest Hills gets several new students each year and Charleen and her team are constantly a welcoming space for new families. It is a blessing to have her at Harvest Hills and the way she manages her staff and kitchen pours positivity into the school. Teachers enjoy helping out in the kitchen whenever needed and the kitchen staff is always looking for ways to support teachers in the classroom.”

Honored by Kirsten Troester, Building Principal, Gretna Public Schools


“Ariel always has a smile on her face. She is ready to work wherever she is needed. Her famous saying, “how can I help?”, is something I love when I hear her asking other team members this. She is polite and caring towards all age groups! So fun to have in the kitchen.”

– Honored by Kourtney Summers, FSD, Hershey School

“Huntington School wouldn’t be the same without Kathy Bliss and her nutrition team! They serve breakfast and lunch to our students each day with a smile! They decorate the kitchen for each season and go out of their way to be kind to students and staff. We appreciate their hard work and dedication to feed our Huntington students. Thank you to our Huntington School Nutrition Heroes!

– Honored by Kristi Schirmer, Principal, Lincoln Public Schools

Amanda Vyhlidal, Monica Glodowski, Sara Hopkins, and Hailey Bayer, Head Cooks, Lunch Ladies

“We have the BEST lunch ladies!!! They make delicious food for our students and staff, and always have smiles on their faces making all of us feel welcome when we come through the lunch line.”

– Honored by Beth Vrana, School Nurse, North Bend Central Elementary

Michelle Ward, Lunch Transportation

“Michelle has been hauling lunches across town to multiple school locations for 18 long years! We certainly can tell when she is absent. Michelle helps check the qualities and quantities during our transport process. Michelle cares about efficiency and consistency. With out her help, the struggle of getting meals across town each day to feed at our 4 transport locations, would be real! Michelle helps the flow of transport to go smoothly and consistently here in Ogallala! Thanks for all you hard work and dedication Michelle!”

– Honored by Stacey Cassell, Food Service Director, Ogalla Public Schools

Stacey Bach, Food Service Director

“Stacey is dedicated to Fueling the Minds of the Future each and every day! She firmly believes that feeding students bellies helps to feed their minds in and out of the classroom. This year she has been focused on increasing breakfast participation and getting the students into the cafeteria each morning. During February they participated in the Nebraska School Breakfast Challenge, and she encouraged the students to eat breakfast through a variety of promotions and events. Stacey’s determination and excitement led to an increase of almost 30 more students eating breakfast each and every day in February!!! Stacey’s passion for school nutrition is what makes her a HERO!”

– Honored by Kim Lows, Area Director, Ogalla Public School

MarkPflug, Cafeteria Worker

“Mark is very polite and kind in working with students and adults. He cares about their well-being. He also suggested a great phrase for our school announcements (Hop to it Bunnies), and the students really like it. He shows Benson pride and spirit. Mark is also very involved in our school. He supports students in so many ways outside of the nutrition services. He has attended football games, volleyball games and school plays and music concerts. He is truly a Benson Bunny!”

– Honored by Melinda Bailey, Principal, Omaha Public Schools

Teresa Newberry, Pamela Morris, Monta Garrett, Aleshia Brewer Nutrition + Cafeteria Staff

“Each day this team of wonderful people greet our students and staff with a smile and warm hello! They enjoy interacting and getting to know our preK through fifth grade students. Students appreciate their kindness. Not only do they enjoy our students, they are also great team members and have built relationships with other adults in the school too. I have enjoyed getting to know each of them and love the way they treat everyone like family.”

– Honored by Michelle Sorenson, Instructional Facilitator, Omaha Public Schools

“This team works hard each day with a smile on their face and a joyous attitude to help provide and serve delicious meals to our students at Lothrop. They not only help make our meals great, but they are a great addition to our staff at Lothrop.”

– Honored by Janeen Mann, Principal, Omaha Public Schools

Our ladies here in cafeteria work so hard on insuring our students have the balanced nutrition needed. They all have kind words to say to each student. Always energetic and team players.

– Honored by Marybeth, Director for Before/Afterschool Program, Omaha Public Schools

Melissa, Jutta, & Rhonda, Food Service Manager and Food Service Workers

“Melissa, Jutta, and Rhonda’s dedication and warmth as food service workers at Golden Hills Elementary make every mealtime special. Their kindness and hard work create a welcoming environment where students not only nourish their bodies but also feel cared for. Thank you for your tireless efforts in ensuring every child’s day starts and ends with a smile. Your contributions to our school community are truly appreciated.”

– Honored by Jen Noble, Golden Hill Elementary Principal

“Ms. Lara Day cares about our students and staff. She ensures the students receive quality meals and that nobody goes hungry. Her smile and kindness is exactly what is needed in the mornings and at lunch. Ms. Day is a positive member of our staff!”

– Honored by Kim Caniglia, High School Assistant Principle, Superior Public Schools

Sandy Lanka, Kathy Connell, Head Cook and Assistant Cook

“Sandy and Kathy are amazing. The majority of the kids eat hot lunch because the food is so tasty. They are kind to the kids and always have kind things to say to them. They both go the extra mile to make sure everyone is fed a delicious and nutritious meal. They are both just great humans. We are blessed.”

– Honored by Bobbi Isom, Stapleton Elementary Principal

“I am excited to nominate Liz Buckley for the Nebraska Nutrition Hero Award. In our busy middle school cafeteria, Liz is the unsung hero who ensures that every student receives not only a delicious meal but also a nutritious one. Liz carefully plans and prepares menus that meet the strict nutritional guidelines set forth for growing students. Our middle school students are very lucky to have the options they do thanks to the leadership of our Kitchen team that she provides. She goes above and beyond to meet many dietary and physical needs (example: providing meals for students who are unable to get to the cafeteria for reasons related to mobility issues). Her dedication is commendable.”

– Honored by Jordan Rhodes, Assistant Principal, Westside Middle School

Julie Walford, Jeanette Stickney, Nat Cavitt, and Mark Aita, Westbrook Nutrition Services

“Julie and the rest of the Nutrition Services team at Westbrook have done an outstanding job this year. We went through some changes and they have gone above and beyond to make sure staff and students have a great experience in our cafeteria. We can’t thank them enough for all that they do.”

– Honored by Brian Stevens, Principal, Westbrook Elementary