School Food on the Frontlines: It’s been a COVID year for Dawndrea and her one woman show!


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.

Ready to distribute meals to hungry students in Guernsey, Wyoming

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).

Current March 2021 Salad Bar

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!

31 Days of #RealSchoolFood: Salad Bars Bring on the Produce

Schools clearly have a role in providing healthy foods to children. Our data suggest that the most vulnerable students are benefitting the most from school food.” A recently published study by Dr. Madeline Dalton, PhDThe Hood Center for Children and Families at Dartmouth College, confirms that school meals are important source of produce for low-income adolescents. According to her co-author Dr. Meghan Longacre, “Innovation in school food offerings for kids has emphasized increased consumption of fruits and vegetables and it’s working for low-income kids, but the evidence shows that a different strategy may be needed to have the same positive effect on high income kids.”

The innovation the authors refer to includes the requirements of the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and changes in Meal Patterns to increase the quantity and variety of produce offerings at school. A quick look at three school salad bars from Southern states – an area not known for its fresh vegetable consumption – confirms that students are enjoying incredible produce options at school.

Lusher High School, New Orleans, Louisiana

Lusher High School, New Orleans, Louisiana

This gorgeous salad bar in a New Orleans Charter School includes everything from common celery to more exotic fresh mushrooms. These teens in this school can clearly enjoy a wide variety of flavors, textures and nutrition along with their lunch entrée. In many schools, teens are to take as many fruits and vegetables as they want. Middle School students in Carrollton, Georgia, can enjoy these colorful choices as part of the district’s Eat Healthy Eat Local Eat at Carrollton City Schools initiative.

Carrollton Middle School Salad Bar, Carrollton City Schools, Georgia

Carrollton Middle School Salad Bar, Carrollton City Schools, Georgia

Up in Harrisonburg, Virginia, the High School Salad Bar is truly impressive. Like her colleague Dr. Linnette Dodson in the Carrollton, Georgia, Harrisonburg’s School Nutrition Director Andrea Early works hard to source as many local items for the produce bar as possible.

Harrisonburg (VA) High School Salad Bar

Harrisonburg (VA) High School Salad Bar

Of course, the most important question is: Do teens really dig into these beautiful displays and increase their intake of fruits and vegetables? The answer, according to a January 2014 Evaluation of the Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools Initiative is a resounding success! As reported by the Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition (GSCN) the successful outcomes of salad Bar Implementation included:

  • Increased students’ access to fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Most schools reported increased student participation in school lunch (57%)
  • School administrators, teachers, staff, and parents became more supportive of salad bars
  • A majority of schools reported purchasing more fruits and vegetables (78%)
  • Schools used fresh, pre-cut fruits and vegetables for salad bars (81%)

Additional results of the evaluation are outlined in this infographic from the report.

Evaluation of the Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools Initiative

Evaluation of the Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools Initiative