HAMMOND — A School City of Hammond employee was recognized by a national nonprofit for her work keeping students fed during the pandemic.
Tina Callahan, kitchen manager at Edison Elementary School, was named Manager of the Year for the Mideast region by School Nutrition Association, according to a news release. Her creativity, high quality meals and friendly atmosphere helped the district have higher participation in its summer meal program than many surrounding areas.
Before the pandemic closed schools, Callahan made sure National School Breakfast Week in early March 2020 was one to remember. The serving line was decorated to look like a spaceship and an inflatable robot greeted students in line. And when schools did close and students needed to get meals curbside, Callahan brought a smile to their faces by wearing a unicorn costume, the release said.
Some families were driving 20 minutes each way to pick up meals. With curbside and other changes to the meal service because of the pandemic, Callahan made sure to keep families informed through social media, the release said.
During the summer months, Callahan served student favorites like elotes, egg pops, smoothies and ice cream churned by students pedaling a bicycle, the release said. She helped students grow produce at home by creating milk carton gardens with them.
Callahan also makes sure her staff has the tool it needs to succeed. The release said she believes in leading by example working with each staff member to ensure they are trained in customer service, using kitchen equipment and reading recipes. She helps them use technology to access trainings, shares what she learns from regional workshops and uses her bilingual skills to remove language barriers.
Callahan was honored earlier this month at a virtual award ceremony attended by nominees, nominators, state leaders and nonprofit members.