Retiring at the top of her game
Charlotte Cook, food services director for Medical Lake School District, received both the state and regional level awards for School Nutrition Association’s director of the year.
Several years of hard work were recognized this month when Medical Lake School District Food Services Supervisor Charlotte Cook received awards at both the regional and national levels.
School Nutrition Association, a national non-profit organization, awarded Cook Outstanding Director of the Year Award. The honor recognizes the extraordinary contributions of school nutrition directors who manage effective school meal programs providing healthy, appetizing meals to students, according to a School Nutrition Association press release.
First awarded director of the year for the state of Washington, Cook was also nominated for the award at the Northwest regional level by colleagues in the district. The regional awards encompass a handful of states.
“I was shocked,” Cook said. “I was more shocked when I won the Northwest region award, it was very surprising.”
Cook has served as the director for 20 years, and has been with Medical Lake for a total of 42 years. During that time she has seen a continuously-evolving industry with new methodologies. She’ll also be retiring at the end of the school year, marking the conclusion of a storied career in Medical Lake.
During her time with the district, she’s worked in every kitchen position, making her way to the top of the department. She moved to Medical Lake with her husband in 1968 after he retired from Fairchild Air Force Base, and initially hoped to find a part-time job. Cook recalls when the district used to bring in 40-pound boxes of celery that needed to be washed and trimmed, as well as the 25-pound bags of carrots that eventually made their way to students’ lunches.
“Life has changed a lot,” she said.
The district now uses Skyward to keep track of money in students’ accounts, and purchases food from an outside vendor. Cook now oversees all of the district’s school kitchens and is the final signature for free and reduced lunch applications.
“School nutrition directors lead programs that must appeal to student preferences and balance student needs while adhering to complex nutrition and food safety standards,” Sandra Ford, SNS, President of the School Nutrition Association said in a press release regarding the award. “Charlotte has excelled in her ability to rise to these challenges, running the Medical Lake school meal program on a very tight budget and exhibiting tremendous dedication and commitment to students.”
Earlier this year in February, Cook decided it was time to hang things up, beginning the final months of her time with the district. She has grandchildren in the southern part of the United States and looks forward to spending plenty of time with them in her newfound free time.
While she’s been employed by the district for over 20 years, Cook has never considered her job to be “work.”
“If you like the job you’re doing, it’s not work,” she said with a smile.
Cook and other award winners will be honored during the Awards Ceremony at School Nutrition Association’s Annual National Conference in Kansas City, Mo.
James Eik can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.