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Finding the Helpers

Celebrating School Lunch Hero Day with WGU Washington.

May 1, 2020

Leeda Beha runs the Child Nutrition department for the Bethel School District. She and her team are working as hard as ever continuing to feed their community south of Tacoma despite the closure of schools statewide.

Because of that hard work and what it means during the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the sincere thanks nutrition services personnel receive is well-deserved. Also, it made May 1, 2020—School Lunch Hero Day—particularly special.

In honor of that day, Beha shared a heartfelt email with the many employees in her division.

“Out of all of the people in a school that were deemed ‘essential’ by the governor, it was you, and no one had to tell you why,” wrote Beha. “You already knew why. Hunger is real.”

Ensuring young people receive the nourishment they need is the top priority for Beha’s team, as it is for nutrition services departments across Washington. When Gov. Inslee halted in-person classes in mid-March, he acknowledged the valuable resource school nutrition programs provide their communities and asked them to remain in operation.

Since then, the Bethel School District alone has provided roughly a quarter-million meals. There and in every other district in the state, they’ll continue to work to meet demand. No days off. No vacations.

Like Gov. Inslee, WGU Washington also recognizes the important service nutrition programs provide—and the dedication of their staff members during a challenging period. The online university expressed its appreciation on School Lunch Hero Day by providing each person in Bethel’s Child Nutrition division—plus bus drivers and other staff—lunch from Farm 12 restaurant.

That effort followed similar, recent demonstrations of support by WGU Washington in other districts in Pierce and King County, including the Auburn and Kent school districts.

“The commitment of school nutrition staff across the state is humbling and inspiring,” said Constance Kronlund, the Regional Senior Partnerships Manager for WGU Washington. “Even during this challenging time, they work to ensure the health and well-being of our children. I’m thrilled our university was able to show our gratitude this way and grateful to Farm 12 for their generous involvement in this initiative.”

In Beha’s email to her staff, she included a quote from TV legend Mr. Rogers. It said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”

With schools and many businesses closed and public health a major concern, it’s essential to find the people who are helping. More than ever, School Lunch Hero Day has special significance and—in a small, meaningful way—recognizes an important group of helpers.

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