Nutrition Director Lori Danella has seen her team through a series of ups and downs since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold last spring. See what she has to say about her district, Lee's Summit R-7 in Lee's Summit, Mo., and how it's adapted.
Q: What is it that makes your operation excel?
My staff. They’re talented, they’re dedicated, they’re caring, they have a great attitude. This year has really shown that more than ever. Without them, we would have nothing.
Q: What’s your best advice for other operators?
You have to take care of yourself. You can’t be a good leader unless you’re in a good frame of mind, because you can’t hide it. Roll with the punches because you can't let a mistake or a shortage or something that just didn’t work cause the day to fall apart. You have to have plan A to Z—and I think we’re on maybe R at this point—but each time you change, you learn something.
Q: What are your goals for the coming year?
We’ve been working behind the scenes to bring back the special and fun things: decorations, wing day, etc. How we can give them back the burger bars and baked potato stations in a safe way. They will have stations back—burger bars and baked potato, but different. Our students really look forward to these things.
Q: How has the pandemic changed your relationship with the families you serve?
Oh, we have so much more respect from families. I was really worried at the start because we had only shelf-stable items, and there’s only so much you can do. But parents have been very supportive, with many phone calls cheering us [on]. It has really tied us with the community even more.