Jarrett Krosoczka thinks lunch ladies are superheroes.
The author and illustrator of the popular “Lunch Lady” series of graphic novels says he was inspired by a chance encounter he had with his childhood lunch lady, Jeanne, whose acts of kindness stayed with him into adulthood.
Krosoczka will share his personal story with a national audience at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT Sept. 17 as part of the Storytellers Project’s virtual show, “School Stories,” a benefit for No Kid Hungry. The Storytellers Project, part of the USA TODAY Network, produces shows in 20 cities across the United States, but pivoted to virtual shows in April because of stay-at-home orders.
Because of the pandemic, this year, one in four students are expected to face food insecurity, up from one in seven last year, according to No Kid Hungry.
“I want to offer a story that reminds us all to be thankful for the work being done in school cafeterias,” Krosoczka said. “The average person has a very skewed view of the ‘lunch lady’ due to the malignment this workforce has received in popular culture.”
On this night of live storytelling, the Storytellers Project will celebrate what we love about school – in all its forms – to raise money for No Kid Hungry, a nonprofit that connects kids and families to nutritious food through their schools.
Krosoczka joins chef Dan Giusti, 2020 Arizona Teacher of the Year Lynette Stant, and Abby Favela, a college senior and No Kid Hungry youth ambassador.
Like Krosoczka, Giusti has a fondness for school lunch programs -- so much so that he left his job as a chef at Noma restaurant in Copenhagen, Denmark, which has two Michelin stars, and where a meal costs an average of $350, to start Brigaid in Connecticut.
Brigaid chefs collaborate with public school food workers to cook fresh, nutritious food from scratch. New York City Public Schools, the nation’s largest public school district, has since launched its own Brigaid program in the Bronx.
Giusti will talk about how comically demoralizing it was to go from delighting discriminating diners to disappointing middle school kids. He learned the hard way that kids want comfort food, or at least food they can be comfortable with.
Stant’s story is about her love of teaching. She works at the Salt River Elementary School in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, which is east of Phoenix. When she was in second grade, Stant taught her grandmother to write her own name, Mary, so she could sign her checks to cash them instead of using her fingerprint as a signature.
Her grandmother grew up on the Navajo Reservation, which spans northern Arizona and New Mexico, and only spoke Diné.
It also touches on a breakthrough she had with a troubled student after she started spending her lunch time with him. In both instances, Stant said she found her joy by supporting them through their evolution.
The show will also include an interview with Mariela Donis, manager at Share Our Strength, No Kid Hungry Sacramento and Bay Area Region, about the difference these organizations make for students.
Share Our Strength has been working to solve problems of hunger and poverty across the globe for 25 years, launching No Kid Hungry in 2010, and continues to invest in and develop other campaigns.
This storytelling night is part of a series of live, virtual shows planned through 2021 featuring a diverse makeup of storytellers sharing true stories based on their personal lives. Tellers are coached by journalists from across the USA TODAY Network. Learn more at https://www.storytellersproject.com/about/.
Need to Know
What: “School Stories”
When: Sept. 17, 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT
More: Watch past virtual shows here and recorded in-person shows here.
Sept. 24: Uprisings: Stories of the Civil Rights Movement
Oct. 1: Entrepreneurship and Hustle
Oct. 22: Far from Alone
Oct. 29: I Am An American
Nov. 10: Veterans Stories
Nov. 19: Food and Family
Dec. 15: Holiday Stories
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Storytellers Project show to feature 'Lunch Lady' author Jarrett Krosoczka