Former Minn. Viking Surprises Students to Present Awards

Every school day, the hardworking cooks, patient service-line personnel and friendly cafeteria cashiers work to build positive connections with students. The Lewiston-Altura School District #857 (MN) high school staff created the Food Service Connections Award to recognize meaningful student interactions and planned an extra special way to present them to students last month.


With almost a year of planning this event, Food Service Director Vickie Speltz and staff coordinated guest speaker Matt Birk, former Minnesota Vikings center, to present the awards on May 21. Speaking to a gymnasium filled with students wearing Vikings purple, Birk talked about how “everyone has the potential to do greatness” in their life.

“Matt Birk is just an exceptional speaker,” said Speltz. “I feel the students really enjoyed the award presentation even more with him there. We served lunch to the entire building and he stayed to talk with a few students and adults after the program. It was a great day for everyone. Just looking at students’ faces was absolutely priceless. It’s days like that I’m reminded why I love my job.”


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Speltz discussed the importance of the food service team and how their interactions with students are a vital part of the school community environment. The Food Service Connections Awards were presented to two students who stood out to the school cooks and foodservice team – Cora Gibbs and Lilli Prigge. Gibbs has been wheelchair-bound from an accident that occurred over a year ago and has been working hard on her recovery.  Thanks in part to the positive motivation of staff and fellow students, she can now walk to lunch. Prigge is the district’s miracle child, having received a heart transplant at just six weeks old.  She has been tube fed for most of her life but recently started exploring new foods thanks to the school cooks’ awareness of her dietary and texture sensitivities.

Both won a pair of tickets to the Viking game against the Atlanta Falcons on September 8, 2019. The two award winners will attend the game with the staff member they connected with the most, Cardinal Café head cook Lori LaBrec and paraprofessional Dawn Rothering.


After the foodservice presentation, Assistant Principal Brian Menk named the school’s Good Samaritan Award winner. They received an autographed picture, along with four lucky runners-up who received an autographed picture or football.

The presentation was part of a Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP) grant that focused on the healthy living of Minnesota students. The district received $2,000 for physical activity equipment – $1,000 for the high school and $1,000 for Altura Intermediate. These two schools were able to buy equipment for students to use during lunch recess to keep them active and fit. The Cardinal Cafe’ also received a $1,000 grant for marketing the school meal program, which according to Speltz, will be used to make the high school cafeteria look brighter and more colorful with fruit and vegetable signs.

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