Food Service Director Keeps Basketball Team Fueled Up

Dan Darbo has managed college foodservice operations for more than 20 years, owned restaurants and managed hotels.  His life in the food service industry took a big turn four years ago when he became foodservice director and head basketball coach at Mesabi East Independent School District in Aurora, Minn.

I like the food business and really enjoy being around kids. It doesn’t seem like a job, and every day is different and challenging – keeping it interesting.

Darbo now dedicates his professional expertise to the 900 students and athletes in Mesabi East Schools ISD, where he attended and played sports for years ago.

He came to the district with a plethora of knowledge – both in nutrition and managing large food production. During the summer months, Darbo still operates an establishment at a local golf course. Using his background in catering services, which he continues throughout the year, Darbo implemented a successful in-school catering program as well.logo

“One of the most important things about school food service work is to make it fun,” he said. “I’ve been known to dress up in costumes (such as Big Foot) and walk around outside and knock on the windows of the classrooms, or dress up like a lunch lady during homecoming skits (with a dress and a wig). Those thing are fun and you really connect with the students. I have been able to meet some young students who I really admire, and then employ them in my own business at the golf course. It’s all very rewarding.”

From some of the changes made in district, the seasoned food service director has been able to increase breakfast participation from less than 100 to about 325 daily.

“Almost everything we serve here at Mesabi East Schools is made from ‘scratch’ – we’re very proud of that,” said Darbo.

Since he became the food service director, many changes have been implemented in Mesabi East Schools, including installing a full service salad bar and a la carte line for senior high school students, offering a new breakfast bar, creating a comprehensive recycling program and providing an online version of the menu and nutritional information on the district’s website.

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Mesabi East Independent School District in Aurora (MN).

In addition to those changes, Darbo said he has also dedicated time to creating new menu offerings, remodel the serving lines, get new equipment for the cafeterias and manage the concession program for the sports booster clubs. His love of Mesabi East runs deep, a “Giant” through and through!

“I always joke that I’m probably the only lunch lady in the country that is a head boys basketball coach too – I love my job,” he said. “I went to school here and graduated from here. The chance to be a mentor and maybe have an impact on a young person’s life is really cool!”

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