Osseo’s Retiring Tom Pellegrino Writes Lunch Lady Tribute
If you’ve ever heard Tom Pellegrino talk about school lunch, you’d know he is very passionate about his job. He believes students should have a healthy, nutritious lunch served up by people who care. His passion is evident to the many lunch ladies and a few lunch men that work under him.
“This cafeteria has 17 employees and six permanent openings. We’ve had that for two years,” says Tom Pellegrino, director of food and nutrition services. He stopped by the Park Center school cafeteria right before lunch on Wednesday. “These lunch ladies are the unsung heroes. They are artists, hidden artists in our schools.”
Tom Pellegrino will retire from Osseo Area Schools after almost 30 years. As a parting gift to his many staff, he wrote a tribute called “A Lunch Lady’s Untold Story.” The letter went out by email and straight into the hearts of his staff.
“It validated us,” says Melanie Gates, kitchen manager of the Park Center High School lunch room. “It was endearing and spot on. I saw myself in that letter. I saw our staff in that letter and I saw our district’s mission statement.”
Pellegrino’s letter mentioned that lunch ladies often begin the day by going through a back entrance of the school before daylight. Then, they face the challenges of preparing a fresh meal on a strict budget and with strict dietary guidelines….all on a deadline.
“He’s not here at 5:30 in the morning with me,” explains Gates. “He’s not here every day while we are doing this, but he knows what goes on in his kitchens and it is validating.”
Tom Pellegrino remembered for meeting needs of students.
The Park Center High School kitchen space recently got a renovation. Students can choose to eat a variety of foods, each presented in an appealing way. Staff members knew Pellegrino was passionate about not only the staff, but about meeting the needs of the students.
“He cares about the kids and cares about the food,” says Angelina Smith, the assistant kitchen manager at Park Center High School. “His big thing is he wants to make sure it’s nutritious and it looks good the kids. And that it’s fresh.”
Pellegrino’s legacy will be that he was a big cheerleader for his staff. He will retire in June and his replacement has already been hired. Jeff Ansorge will come to Osseo Area Schools after 30 years in St. Paul Schools.
Want to read the full letter? Pellegrino’s Lunch Lady Tribute