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October 29, 2013

Pride and Promise: New Castle cafeteria cook makes sure students eat well

NEW CASTLE — Former President George W. Bush made sure no child is left behind in education.

In the New Castle Area School District, Deborah Abraham makes sure no child goes hungry.

Abraham, a cafeteria shift leader/head cook at the junior/senior high school, received the district’s Pride and Promise award for her vigilance in making sure students eat lunch.

The 26-year employee was recognized at the Oct. 16 school board meeting.

Tabitha Carna, a junior high English teacher, touted Abraham for going beyond the scope of her job. Abraham  makes sure everyone is eating during the lunch period, Carna said.

“If they are not eating, she quietly approaches them to find out why.”

Carna monitors a cafeteria shift and noticed one day that a student who usually eats peanut butter sandwiches wasn’t eating. Abraham went over and asked him why he wasn’t eating, and he told her he got the wrong sandwich and he wanted peanut butter.

So he wouldn’t go hungry, Abraham went into the kitchen and made him a peanut butter sandwich. She then told the boy to remember her so that if he has a problem again, he could find her and she would get him what he needs, Carna said.

Abraham says she’s just doing her job.

“That one little boy made a mistake and picked up something he didn’t want and wanted to exchange it,” she said. “You’re not supposed to take food back, but I do it once in awhile because I don’t want to see anyone hungry.”

“What it boils down to is common sense,” Abraham continued. “I told him, ‘Find me if this ever happens again. You don’t have to be embarrassed. I’ll fix it for you.’ That’s what I’m supposed to do.”

“I’ve always been in the kitchen cooking,” she explained. “It’s my thing.”

The cafeteria offers homemade food every day. One day this week, the menu featured turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy. Friday there were subs, chicken fingers, hamburgers and pizza greens.

“It’s not always something hot, but we make it all in the cafeteria,” Abraham said. “That’s what I do.”

Junior high principal Robert Razzano, who with Carna nominated Abraham for the award, said, “She’s a very passionate individual. She’s also a strong advocate for the  cafeteria workers union. She wants to make sure that our kids get fed the right way, with nutritious, proper and good food.”

Razzano credits Abraham for noticing when students aren’t eating.

“She’s always been an advocate for them,” he continued. “Her heart is in what’s best for the kids, and eating is a very important part of a kid’s day.”

That piggybacks with what the governor says, that proper eating positively affects cognitive skills and performance, Razzano said.

He missed the board meeting because he and food service director Rick Sankey attended a summit for school administrators and food service directors at the governor’s mansion in Harrisburg. The purpose was for Gov. Tom Corbett’s wife, Susan, to launch her campaign for schools statewide to provide breakfast for all students, not just those receiving free or reduced-lunch.

Pittsburgh schools are piloting a program now, Razzano said, noting that potential problems such as busing, late arrivals and cost would have to be ironed out.

“The devil’s always in the details, but if we find the money, there’s a way of implementing it,” he said.


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