Dawndrea Daly, has been the Foodservice Coordinator in Platte County #2 School District (Wyoming) for 6 years. The district is located in the very rural town of Guernsey, about two hours north of Cheyenne. It serves 244 students, with a pre-pandemic free/reduced rate of 44 percent. Before school closed in March, the school was providing 160 to 180 lunches (depending on the menu) and 80 breakfasts. Currently, with all students back in school, Daly reports that they are serving 160 breakfasts and 160 to 180 lunches (again depending on the menu).
What was the biggest challenge that you had to overcome in the past year?
When COVID-19 closed all schools in Wyoming in March 2020, Dawndrea Daly became at “one-woman show” at Guernsey High School. While other foodservice employees were reassigned by the superintendent, she kept the kitchen lights on – and she kept on serving breakfast and lunches to any student who came to pick them up. Daly admits that the “first week was insane” but she knew that it had to be done, so she did it. From March through August 2020, she offered curbside pickup by car, bicycle and wagon – and she served a grand total of 16,210 meals. She ordered the food (which became a major challenge during supply chain shortages), prepared the meals and packaged the meals by herself. She had help with curbside pickup from administration – but all the rest was up to her.
What achievement are you the proudest of in the past year?
Dawndrea Daly is not one to brag about her achievements. She says that she was just doing her job and making sure that kids were fed – and fed well. She did want the community to know that school meals are important to children and families. The gratitude and appreciation that she has received from making over 16,000 meals is beyond anything she ever expected. In fact, she received statewide recognition as a Wyoming hero when she was invited by Governor Gordon and his wife Jennie to attend and lead the Pledge of Allegiance for the Governor’s virtual Prayer Breakfast in March 2021. Dawndrea was proud to represent all school foodservice professionals at the breakfast and honored to meet state leaders. Once the weather is better, she hopes to ride her Harley back to Cheyenne and to visit with the Wyoming’s First Lady again.
What innovation have you made that you will continue using in the future?
For the past several years. Daly has gone above and beyond in her role as Foodservice Coordinator, applying for many successful grants. She received a Salad Bars for Schools grant from the Chef Ann Foundation, a USDA Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Grant and a Geodome for students to grow fresh vegetables (which will be back up and running as soon as COVID precautions allow).
Right now, she might be running the only salad bar in Wyoming – with a plexiglass front and a dedicated staff member who builds a salad from items chosen by each student. It’s not at all surprising that someone who made thousands of meals by herself would find a way to safely continue using a salad bar to benefit her student customers. Hey COVID, I think you met your match in Guernsey, Wyoming!