Hunger Heroes Hall of Fame

Across New York, hundreds of thousands of children rely on school meals and community meals to remain healthy and nourished. Behind these meals are the often unseen food service professionals who work tirelessly day in and day out to provide food to kids in their communities. We are proud to share the stories of these incredible Hunger Heroes through our Hunger Heroes Hall of Fame. Keep your eye on this page as we continue to add more Hunger Hero Hall of Famers throughout the Spring!

2021 New York Hunger Heroes


Linda Brown

Cook, Dansville Central Schools

Linda, the Cook for Dansville Central Schools, is the driving force behind making sure that students receive a healthy, high-quality, and nutritious meal. Through the many obstacles that school districts have faced over the past year in feeding children, Linda has always gone above and beyond to ensure students are taken care of and have full bellies. She is passionate about ensuring students and their families are taken care of and is a Hunger Hero in her community!


Connie Canfield

Food Service Worker, Dansville Central Schools

This year, Connie celebrated her 20th year working at Dansville Central Schools’ Food Service Department. Although it was a year filled with many obstacles, she did not let anything get in the way of her passion for feeding students. Connie brings her positivity, smiling face, and friendliness to every meal pick-up, and is a constant source of support for students and their families. No matter what New York weather comes her way, Connie is always there, standing outside and ensuring that Dansville Central Schools students are able to access the meals they need!


Nakisha Carter (right)

Nakisha Carter

Family Resource Center Coordinator, Rockland BOCES Family Resource Center Foundation

To say that Nakisha has gone above and beyond during the past year is an understatement. Her unwavering commitment to ensuring that children with disabilities and their families have weekly food deliveries means that these families have one less stressor during what is an incredibly difficult public health and economic crisis. In addition to increasing the amount of food distributed by Rockland BOCES by over 600 percent and doubling the number of families served, Nakisha also coordinated dozens of volunteers who clocked hundreds of hours of volunteer time. Families in Rockland County have been hit hard with COVID-19, and this is especially true for families with a child with a disability where safe care during COVID-19 has been very hard, if not impossible, to find. For these families and so many others in her community and across New York, Nakisha is a Hunger Hero.


Jennifer Doolittle

School Lunch Manager, Ithaca City Schools

Jen, School Lunch Manager at Boynton Middle School Central Kitchen, is beloved by students and staff. She is the heart of Ithaca City’s nutrition operations and has been a dedicated employee in the child nutrition department for 24 years. During normal school operations, she coordinates food orders, cooking, and deliveries for 11 of the schools in the district. As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, her efforts have ramped up significantly. In the past year, she has coordinated thousands of meals for home delivery, in-person school meals, and pick-up meals. Rain or snow, you can find her outside making sure that the correct meals get on each of the 12 school buses. When a student does not get the meal or food they need, she goes above and beyond – hopping into the school van and delivering directly to their home. She has even gone as far as delivering to homes a day in advance in anticipation of snow day closures.


Food Service Staff

Peekskill City School District

Snow, wind, rain, and freezing temperatures can’t stop the Peekskill City School District food service staff from working tirelessly to facilitate meal pick-ups and ensure that students in their district are able to access meals. Even when other school events are canceled due to the weather, this amazing team of Hunger Heroes continues to serve meals outside.


Regan Kiembock

School Nutrition Director, Southampton Union Free School District

As schools began to close, Regan was a step ahead of most. She immediately secured district school buses to ensure there wouldn’t be interruptions in Southampton UFSD’s school meal service. Since then, she has helped prep meals, often rode the bus to designated bus stops, and personally delivered meals to students’ homes when they did not have transportation to the bus stop. Through her guidance, Southampton UFSD has also garnered Farm-to-School grants to start a school garden, whose produce will be utilized in the district’s kitchens, as well as benefitted from a seamless Summer Food Service Program.


Troy Kinsey

Cook, Yonkers Family YMCA

Every Monday, Troy singlehandedly distributes over 3,000 pounds of food to families in the Yonkers community, regardless of the weather. He asks every parent picking up food how many children are in their household to ensure they have enough nourishment to last them through the week until the next Monday.


Heather Krenzer

Administrator of Community Based Programs, Encompass Success Network

When the coronavirus pandemic caused children’s programs in Rochester to shut down, Heather took action to ensure that her program participants, their siblings, and their parents would receive home-delivered meals. As summer approached, she coordinated grab & go meals for participants of organizations in the Greater Rochester Summer Learning Association. Since then, she has continued working tirelessly through the fall and winter to ensure that children and youth participating in Education Success Network’s program receive breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner meals, depending on the time when they are in the program.


Kris Felicello

Superintendent, Haverstraw-Stony Point CSD

The past year has been Kris’ first year as Superintendent of Haverstraw-Stony Point CSD, and what a year to begin in this new role! From the get-go, he has involved the School Nutrition Department in every conversation about feeding children and students in their community. Dr. Felicello has been extremely supportive of continuing meal service during the winter recess in December and the mid-winter recess in February – his goal during the pandemic and beyond is to make sure the community’s children are well taken care of through school support and adequate nutrition.


NYC Department of Education Cafeteria Staff

On Sunday, March 15, 2020, New York City school buildings closed in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Early the very next morning, the cafeteria workers of DC 37 Local 372 showed up to work, preparing grab-and-go meals for the City’s 1.1 million students. These incredible essential workers continued to show up every weekday, soon also serving grab-and-go meals to all New Yorkers. Many worked straight over the next six months, until the school food hubs first closed for a holiday on Labor Day. The cafeteria workers of Local 372 have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic, and their hard work and dedication has ensured that NYC children and New Yorkers have access to meals. The incredible commitment and bravery that the NYC Department of Education cafeteria workers have displayed throughout this very difficult year make them all Hunger Heroes. 


Michael Ottley

Chief Operating Officer, Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen

For the past 12 years, Michael has run the soup kitchen at Holy Apostles. He provides guests with nutritious meals, welcomes new and seasoned volunteers, and teaches everyone the importance of food and sustainability. Prior to COVID-19, Michael worked diligently to ensure Holy Apostles could extend its hunger relief efforts to P.S. 33 schoolchildren by partnering with the school to identify families who live in homeless shelters or shared housing and experience food scarcity on weekends when schools and food pantries are closed. Without any dedicated funding source, he launched two programs targeted to these schoolchildren: a meal outreach program that provides meals for after-school programming and a Backpack Pantry Program that provides food for weekend meals. When public schools closed in March 2020, Michael convened the leadership and operations teams at Holy Apostles to expand this pantry program to meet the needs of families with children who were unable to rely on school meals as they had before and fill critical gaps in resources. Thanks to his tireless and heroic efforts over the past year, the expanded pantry program has since provided over 1 million meals to enrolled households, reaching thousands of families with children.


Julia Polidore-Oakley

Executive Director, Agape Haven of Abundance

Julia and the entire team at Agape Haven of Abundance have gone above and beyond to remain open during the pandemic to serve their community and provide families with grab-and-go breakfast and lunches!

 


Susan (left) and her daughter and nominator Laurel (right)

Susan Presher

Food Service Director, Batavia City School District

For Susan, the past year has undoubtedly been the most unprecedented time in her 20+ years in the child nutrition industry. Since March 2020, she has worked tirelessly to provide hundreds of thousands of meals to her school community. She rolls with every single punch and radiates positivity to everyone around her. There is nothing more important to Susan than making sure her Batavia CSD students receive the meals they need to thrive, and she won’t let anything get in her way!

 


Anju Rupchandani

Executive Director, Zone 126

During the pandemic, Anju, Executive Director of Zone 126, established a school-based food distribution program through Zone 126 and its partners to help food insecure Long Island City/Astoria families. In addition, through a community distribution in Astoria Public Housing, Zone 126 is able to broaden its reach beyond school-age children. Through this program, more than 150 food bags have been distributed, securing food for more than 100 families. Zone 126 staff members often hear how Ms. Rupchandani’s efforts have sustained these families as they try to maintain school learning in this new normal. Anju, a product of the District #30 public school system and lifelong Long Island City/Astoria resident, is a true Hunger Hero.


Sara Scott

Director of Recreation, City of Rochester Department of Recreation and Youth Services

Sara and the City of Rochester Recreation Centers staff have worked tirelessly since the beginning of the pandemic to consistently provide meals to the families of Rochester. They stepped up to help when needed and coordinated with Foodlink to provide meals to each center every week. This partnership has been crucial to the service of the Rochester community!

 


Russell (second from left) and his team

Russell Simpkins

Cook-Manager, Freeport Schools

Russell and his team of Hunger Heroes at Freeport High School have tirelessly taken care of students since the pandemic started last March. They have provided grab & go meals for breakfast and lunch, distributed Island Harvest food donations, and ensured the Long Island Cares backpack program is connected to families. To make sure students did not experience any gaps in nourishment and nutrition, Russell and his team continued serving meals through the summer, and upon returning to school, they are currently preparing and distributing hot lunch to classrooms and providing to-go breakfast.


Cathy (left) and the team at Dodd Middle School

Catherine Solow

Cook, Freeport Schools

Cathy and her incredible staff at Dodd Middle School work hard every day to ensure that students learning in person are not only fed delicious meals in their classrooms but also provided with a breakfast for the next day at the end of every school day!

 


Lori Wheeler

Cook Manager, Deposit Central School District

Lori always goes above and beyond for Deposit Central School District students and families in the Deposit community. Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, she has not only been handing out meals to students, but she also raised the funds needed to supply meal boxes to the community before the holidays in order to sustain families over winter break. To date, thanks to Lori’s incredible efforts, the district has been able to distribute tens of thousands of pounds of food items to their community!