At Edison Elementary in Hammond, Patricia “Patty” Urbanczyk, kitchen manager and devoted advocate of “serving the needs of school children and the community,” recently celebrated national recognition for her work. The nonprofit School Nutrition Foundation (SNF) acknowledged her as one of a handful of School Nutrition Heroes for 2018.

School Nutrition Heroes hail from all over the United States, and Urbanczyk was nominated by her peers for the award. After she returned from the awards ceremony we caught up with her to find out about her mission in the schools and what makes her a Nutrition Hero for 2018. —CL

Q: As kitchen manager at Edison Elementary in Hammond, what’s your number one goal when planning and preparing school meals for the children?

A: My number one goal is always that every student receives a nutritious meal to get them all the fuel their brains need to succeed and learn in school. We do this by making sure we prepare enough of everything so from the first student to the last they all have access to all of our different meal options. We also make sure that we serve each child with a smile.

Q: What are some of the schoolchildren’s favorite meals on the menu?

A: Beefy nachos and our homemade “big slice pizza” that we prepare from scratch are hugely popular. And, of course, our oven-baked chicken nuggets.

Q: Where did you develop your love of cooking and who inspired you to cook for the children?

A: I have always had a passion for cooking since I was a little girl. I learned from my maw maw and my parents. They taught me to prepare my meals with lots of love.

Q: What was it like when you found out you were recognized as one of the School Nutrition Heroes for 2018?

A: I was excited and overwhelmed. Helping the community and the children is a blessing to me and I enjoy doing what I can. I was honored to receive the award but I didn’t earn it alone—it was a group effort from my church and other local churches that provided me the opportunity to give back.

Q: From your perspective, why is school nutrition so essential to productive learning and growth?

A: Our children are our future and they need well-balanced, nutritious meals to make sure they can focus on learning and not be distracted by hunger. We know that sometimes our children do not get all they need at home and that’s where we step in and provide them with a variety of delicious food so that they can focus on being the best they can be.

Learn more about the School Nutrition Foundationhere.

And want to know more about the fight for better food for Indiana youth? Our Fall 2017 issue was dedicated to this subject. Read our digital issue: Food Fight, Fall 2017

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