“Just Terrific” cafeteria recognition

Making students feel welcome and comfortable in the cafeteria is something that Patricia Embry has focused on throughout her 22+ years as a school nutrition professional at Hurricane Deck Elementary School. Ms. Patty, as students affectionately know her, has served in many roles, from cashier to assistant cook, in the Camdenton R-III School District (MO) school. 

Ms. Patty is known for creative food art displays to help draw attention and student interest in visiting the fruit and salad bar. By dressing up the line with fun displays, she hopes to make those healthy choices just a little more enticing for students. It’s efforts like these that have helped contribute to increases in breakfast and lunch participation at the school.


Taking the extra effort has come naturally to Ms. Patty. Despite having a hearing impairment, she gets to know every student by name and is eager to help them. Ms. Patty takes time to get one-on-one feedback and connect with students, roaming the cafeteria to check on them or offering a smile and words of encouragement.  She passes out food samples for students during “Tasty Tuesdays” and created a voting board for them to share opinions on those new menu options. Ms. Patty works to keep the cafeteria fresh and fun for students and staff, often volunteering her time to decorate for holidays and celebrate changing seasons.

Her efforts have not gone unnoticed by students and staff or by her school nutrition colleagues. Hurricane Deck Elementary recognized Ms. Patty with a “Just Terrific” award for her efforts and dedication.  She was also recognized with a national Employee of the Year Award for 2016 by the non-profit School Nutrition Association. This highest honor recognizes the valuable contribution of school nutrition employees who exhibit a remarkable commitment to the school meal program and the students they serve.

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