"There's no better job in the world than to feed kids," said Vickie Cantrell, food service director of Logan-Rogersville.
Her dedication and hard work earned her the Missouri School Nutrition Association's (SNA) 2020 State Director of the Year Award. While the nomination process began before COVID-19 school closures, Missouri SNA recognizes the widespread efforts of the state’s school nutrition professionals, who are working on the front lines to ensure needy students have access to healthy meals during the pandemic.
"It's a huge honor to receive this award," said Cantrell. “Honestly, I was surprised when I heard that I was chosen, but I’m truly thankful for it and to be able to work with a wonderful group of people in the school district."
Cantrell worked at a hospital in Kansas City out of high school for five years and then moved to Springfield, where she served with a visiting nurses association. She said she decided she needed something that would make her happier, so she went into the food industry.
"I worked at Shoney's in Springfield for 27 years," said Cantrell. "I loved the frenetic and kinetic pace of the industry. There’s nothing like it, and it’s never boring. That just rolled over into taking care of kids with food."
Cantrell retired from Shoney's and then served in the Logan-Rogersville High School cafeteria for 18 months before becoming the food service director. This marks her 15th year in the Logan-Rogersville School District.
"It's kinda funny, but originally I wanted to work in the Primary School," said Cantrell. "The kids are so little and cute. At first, I was disappointed when they put me in the high school, but it's a wonderful level. It's where you get to see the kids and what they want to become, so it worked out perfectly for me. I love the high school. Every year, I try to work with the high school Student Council to get their ideas as far as the food and what they want."
Cantrell directs a staff of about 24 people. As food service director, she handles a gamut of tasks, including hiring and training employees, creating menus and ordering all the food.
"It's a big job,” said Cantrell. "From managing day-to-day operations to ensuring staff have their mandated training for ServSafe, it varies as far as my responsibilities go. I know the main thing is feeding kids, and I just love talking to them, but as a director there's definitely a lot more to do."
Cantrell joined the Missouri SNA 13 years ago and has been state treasurer for the last seven years. She also served on the Fordland R-III School Board for 18 years and was president for 14 years.
"Being on the board makes you see things differently," said Cantrell. "You sit at a board meeting with people who only want to take care of kids, and there are so many challenges that schools face, but it changes your perspective on things. It was wonderful, and I think everybody should be a board member once in their life."
She added, "At the end of every board meeting, I would ask myself, 'Vickie, did you take good care of kids tonight?' Hopefully, my answer was yes. At Rogersville, I asked myself the same question and most of the time it’s yes. I always lived by that philosophy. We're just here to serve kids, and that’s what I try to live by."
Cantrell will be honored at the Missouri State Annual Conference held in Kansas City on Nov. 14, 2020. She lives in Fordland with her husband, Danny. They have two sons and four grandchildren.