School’s new food director passionate about feeding kids
Stephanie Hawkins, Fairfield Community School District’s new food services director, was excited when she recently learned that an anonymous donor had stepped up to the plate and gave $600 to offset negative lunch balances for Libertyville Elementary School students.
“The donation came in at close to the amount of what was owed in negative lunch balances,” Hawkins said. “We’re very grateful to those people for helping the families of Libertyville.”
As far as the amount of the contribution, Hawkins said it wasn’t something that she solicited in the community, but she doesn’t believe anything is a coincidence.
“I feel like it was one of those things that was just laid on someone’s heart,” she said.
Hawkins has been answering her own heart’s call for many years now.
“I love what I do; I can’t believe I get paid for it!” she said. “All I want to do is feed hungry kids.”
Hailing from Davis County, a district that recently won an award for its food services program, Fairfield school superintendent Laurie Noll said Hawkins brought her know-how and passion to her role here.
Hawkins helped establish a unique summer feeding program that got her former school district noticed by the Iowa Department of Education and the national organization FirstBooks.org.
Because of Hawkins’s program, Davis County Community School District recently garnered a United States Department of Agriculture Award.
For Hawkins, the award was more of a testament to what really mattered, that children had an opportunity to eat and read good books throughout the summer.
Hawkins said First Books donated more than 300 books of all grade levels to give out to children the first year of the program and 1,600 free books during its second year.
“Her passion is to feed the children, and she’s doing everything within the scope of her position to make sure that she meets the needs of all of the kids,” Noll said. “[Since] her focus is strictly on food and nutrition, she’s able to capture all of the opportunities to help feed the children. This is helping us to meet our deficit and close that gap by feeding more children. She’s amazing. Her passion just shines in everything that she does for the students.”
Since Hawkins started last fall, the district has sustained a substantial rise in cafeteria lunch and breakfast sales.
“We had 13,000 more meals served from September to January,” Hawkins said, adding that although she’s the one who comes up with meal ideas, it’s the cooks that have been making it happen.
“Our cooks rock! They are fantastic,” she said, adding that she feels the rise in breakfast and lunch participation is due to a combination of good healthy food, a variety of choices and student involvement.
“We have seven choices at the [Fairfield] High School every day. Thursday’s are bar days, such as taco, pasta, baked potato bar and soup…,” she said, adding that students have choices they like that still fall within the state’s guidelines.
“We have boneless chicken; quesadillas are coming up in April,” she said.
Students participated in a survey earlier in the year and a drawing for all of those who answered the survey.
Hawkins said one student survey participant was given a special prize of a custom cup that read: “I heart school lunch.”
Now, Hawkins is gearing up for a summer lunch program in conjunction with First Books giveaways for all Fairfield students.
“We already have approval,” she said, adding that the program would likely start one week after the end of the Fairfield community school district’s year.