Amy Doty, principal at Perry Harrison Elementary in Chatham County, first realized how dire the situation facing the district’s school nutrition department was in the middle of summer 2021. As the school’s cafeteria manager, Brenda Cavalry, prepared to reopen Perry Harrison with only one food server due to challenges filling vacancies, Doty knew something had to be done.
“I knew as the principal that if we didn’t get our students fed in a timely manner, the rest of their day would deteriorate,” Doty said.
She also knew that she had to lead by example — if she was going to ask her staff to serve food, then she would, too. With that, Doty began helping out in the cafeteria, and serving lunch to students soon became a highlight of her day. Lori Kleberg, an Exceptional Children instructional assistant, also began to assist with serving lunch. Doty attributes the school’s ability to continue providing regular meals to the strong relationships that exist between staff members.
“Unity really does bring hope to a bad situation, because you can share in everybody’s personal experience. You give each other great support in times of need,” said Jennifer Ozkurt, director of school nutrition services in Chatham County.
This story is just one of the many silver linings shared during the 11th annual N.C. Child Hunger Leaders Conference. As school nutrition departments across North Carolina continue to face challenges amid the ongoing pandemic, the convening focused on celebrating silver linings of child nutrition efforts over the last year, including stories of hope, resilience, innovation, and surprise.