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SMS received $25,000 award for new kitchen equipment, supplies

Jul 07, 2023

Stillwater Middle School received a $25,000 award for new kitchen equipment and essential supplies from the makers of Jennie-O turkey brand. The award was part of the company’s national School Cafeteria Campaign this past school year.

Stillwater Middle School is starting the new school year off right – with a $25,000 award to purchase new kitchen equipment and essential supplies from the makers of the Jennie-O turkey brand.

Jennie-O, one of the top turkey brands in the United States, chose four U.S. schools as winners in the company’s national School Cafeteria Takeover campaign, hosted by the Jennie-O brand team and celebrity chef Carla Hall.

Communities got involved by nominating their schools, sharing stories about the positive influence that their cafeteria staff has made in both their school and their community.

Steve Atchison, the regional representative for Jennie-O turkey products and Stillwater Public School’s vendor, encouraged area schools to apply for the program. SMS Cafeteria Manager Vicki McLearan sent in her application along with an accompanying letter about school staff and their positive impact.

“I happened to be at a state conference and the next day I got to go see our Jennie-O representative,” said Krista Neal, SPS School Nutrition Services Director. “(He said), ‘I read (the application) and I loved it’ … he remembered the story that she wrote.”

In McLearan’s application, she shared with Jennie-O’s team that SMS had a special-needs student who weighed only 48 pounds when school started. The school cafeteria staff would blend his breakfast and lunch every day.

“His nurse and my kitchen staff made it our goal to put pounds on him,” McLearan shared in her application. “With tasty nutritious Jennie-O turkey and many other nutritious options, we have gotten him up to 90-plus pounds.”

McLearan said that with the thoughtful planning of Neal, the kitchen staff and even the warehouse employees who delivered school supplies, they achieved their goal.

“Although we strive and work hard to meet the needs of all our students, this one in particular was near and dear to our hearts,” McLearan continued. “We love that Jennie-O is offering such a great opportunity to win some much-needed tools and equipment to make goals more achievable in the next school year. Thank you from the Stillwater Middle School Staff.”

Neal said McLearan and her staff will make a list of items they would like to have for the school cafeteria and they will start prioritizing how to spend the $25,000.

“It’s a 45-year-old school, so yes, things are worn out,” Neal said. “We have replaced a few things recently, but … it’s worn out.”

Jennie-O announced its partnership with chef, cookbook author and TV personality Hall in October 2022.

As part of this partnership, the Jennie-O team and Hall visited schools across the nation to honor school cafeteria staff by hosting school cafeteria takeovers, using Jennie-O turkey in catered meals for cafeteria workers.

The team pampered cafeteria workers with massage chairs, baked Hall’s buttermilk biscuits for them and displayed the gratitude and love of their students with flowers and handwritten notes.

“We had an incredible time working with Chef Carla this past year to help celebrate the unsung heroes of our schools — the cafeteria staff,” said Renee Cool, brand manager at Jennie-O Turkey Store. “And we are so excited to provide an additional $25,000 to these four amazing schools to further help and ease meal-prep for the cafeteria staff as they serve thousands of students across the nation.”

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