Patty Urbanczyk, kitchen manager at Edison Elementary in the School City of Hammond, has been named a School Nutrition Hero for 2018 by the national nonprofit School Nutrition Foundation. Only five professionals were chosen nationwide.

Urbanczyk, who was nominated by her peers, said she was surprised by the announcement. She was chosen to represent professionals who dedicate their lives to serve the needs of schoolchildren and the community.

Urbanczyk, of Hobart, also was instrumental in the success of the school's backpack program last year to support students in need. For the program, in addition to backpacks, many students received a holiday food basket. She handed out 168 baskets.

Her peers also told the committee about Urbanczyk’s passion outside the school. Last year, a local family with six children lost their home to a fire. Urbanczyk and her mother purchased new school uniforms for the children and started a clothing collection drive for the family. She called upon her church to help the family, which led to more donations of clothing, beds, dining room tables/chairs, other furniture, dishes and money.

“Patty is the epitome of an ordinary individual doing extraordinary things for the children and families of Hammond, Indiana,” said Christine Clarahan, School City of Hammond director of Food and Nutrition Services. “Patty has a huge heart for all of the students and staff that she works with. Kitchen managers (across the country) are some of the hardest workers and just doing their jobs is a herculean task, but Patty embodies the School Nutrition Hero concept. She has a very big heart and inspires me because she never gives up on herself, her staff or her students who need her.”

Urbanczyk, who is the mother of four, doesn't really feel like a hero. She is a Christian and feels this is what Jesus would do.

"He did charity and acts of love and I'm passing it along to show God's love," Urbanczyk said. "I really wasn't expecting an award. My award is the blessings I get from everyone. This award is for everyone who was involved in helping the family involved in the fire. This is a group effort."

As food service manager, Urbanczyk and her staff prepare the food and serve the kids.

"I serve about 535 kids a day," she said.

Urbanczyk has been working for the Hammond school district for eight years and has been at Edison for two.

"What I love about my job is that the children see me first before they see the teachers," she said. "I give them a nutritional meal in the morning. I like being around kids and getting the food they need puts a smile on my face."

All of the 2018 School Nutrition Heroes will be recognized at SNF’s Celebration of School Nutrition Heroes during the School Nutrition Association’s 46th Legislative Action Conference in Washington, D.C., in March.

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Community Coordinator

Annette is Porter County Community Coordinator for The Times. She has been with the paper for 20 years. A resident of Hobart, she graduated from Purdue University with degrees in English and German.