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Michigan Celebrates School Lunch Hero Day

Food Service Directors from Boyne Falls and Elkton Pigeon Bayport Laker schools receive accolades

LANSING, MI – May 6 is School Lunch Hero Day and as part of the celebration, Governor Gretchen Whitmer, along with State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice and Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) Director Gary McDowell, recognized two shining stars in Michigan’s school food service industry for their efforts to provide healthy, fresh and local meals at their schools.

"On School Lunch Hero Day we honor the hardworking men and women who provide lunches to millions of students across the nation, helping them focus in and out of the classroom," said Governor Whitmer. "I'm proud to recognize Michigan’s 2022 School Lunch Heroes, Cinamon Marker from Elkton Pigeon Bayport Laker and Nathan Bates from Boyne Falls Public Schools. Thank you for all you do to keep our children happy, healthy, and well-fed. At the state-level, let’s keep working together to make historic investments in our students and schools to improve every kid’s in-class experience, renovate and rebuild our school facilities, and retain and recruit talented on-campus staff."

Cinamon Marker has been the Food Service Director at Elkton Pigeon Bayport Laker Schools for about three years, and with the school food service program for about six years. The district serves about 900 students and staff. Before becoming the food service director, Cinamon came to the district as a specialty chef through a U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm to Table grant, to help bring locally sourced products to the school food service program. Since becoming food service director, Cinamon has been instrumental in building the program, rallying staff and hiring caring employees that get a kick out of feeding kids.

Under her leadership, Lakers' breakfast and lunch numbers have increased dramatically. She is known for her creativity and innovation in the kitchen, and for making good, healthy foods the students love. In addition to her culinary skills, Cinamon is recognized for her leadership among her food service staff.

Nathan Bates has been Chef/Food Service Director at Boyne Falls Public School for nine years. The district serves about 270 students and staff daily. Chef Nathan is a classically trained chef who can create delicious, enticing food with the ingredients available. He is known for his passion for food and that passion comes through in the delicious foods he prepares and service. He cares about the food his staff serves and strives to make food service fun. Chef Nathan’s efforts have made the students he feeds adventurous eaters. He encourages them to try everything once by taking a “no thank you” bite before turning food down.

During his time at Boyne Falls Public Schools, Chef Nathan has cultivated strong relationships with farmers. He sources everything possible locally, with an emphasis on highlighting seasonal produce. The school purchases products directly from local farms, shops at farmers markets, and even has farmers delivering products directly to the school.

“Our school food service heroes do so much more than put food on trays. They provide healthy, nutritious meals that fuel bodies and minds, encourage kids to expand their palates by trying new foods, and focus on foods that are locally grown, healthy, and nutritious.” said McDowell. “By purchasing Michigan grown and produced products, schools help make the important farm to fork connection, teaching kids where their food comes from, and, at the same time, they are supporting local farms and businesses, keeping local economies strong and preserving farmland.”

“Healthy meals keep Michigan students energized and attentive in class so they can learn and achieve great things,” said State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice. “We salute Ms. Marker and Mr. Bates and all of the school food service staff in cafeterias and kitchens across the state for their very important role in the lives and education of our children.”

To learn more about Farm to School efforts in Michigan, visit Michigan Farm to School (msu.edu).