For Meghan Gibbons, Director of School Nutrition at Valley View School District, serving kids school meals is not a job, but a passion. Amidst the challenges brought by the pandemic such as: remote feeding, socially distanced meal service, and supply chain issues, Meghan and her team have worked tirelessly to ensure every child has access to meals and can receive the nourishment they need to grow, learn, and be healthy.
Beginning as a registered dietitian, Gibbons found her way into school nutrition through an internship and later as the Director of School Nutrition at Evanston High School. Now, as the Director of School Nutrition for Valley View School District (VVSD), Meghan and her incredible staff have helped to feed about 17,000 students across 20 schools in Romeoville and Bolingbrook in the last 10 years! They serve over 3 million meals each year to VVSD students.
When asked why she continues to work in the field of child nutrition, Meghan stated, “feeding kids is an easy passion to get into…” and it is this passion that keeps her going. Her experiences at VVSD and support from the community are the icing on the cake. During the interview, Meghan praised her team for simply being amazing. When her school district went fully remote due to the increasing threat of COVID, Gibbons said her team created a plan of action and carried it out. Within 24 hours, VVSD went from business as usual to curbside meals! Members of the community even came out to volunteer and support the district in meal distribution. Witnessing the communal effort to ensure continued access to meals during a time of crisis was an experience that shaped Meghan’s views on childhood hunger and the role of student meal programs.
Aside from the wonderful staff and community members she gets to interact with daily, one of Meghan’s favorite parts of her role is how many routes one can take in the school nutrition field. “It’s a choose your own adventure career,” she says. Legislation and policy surrounding child nutrition has been a particular interest of Meghan’s where she has been advocating to make effective and incremental change in feeding hungry kids.
The pandemic further exposed the gaps in equitable access to school meal systems through important factors such as: availability, affordability, and accessibility. Meghan stresses how important equal access to great nutrition opportunities are, especially in school. Navigating school meal distribution during the pandemic has proven that it is possible to address these gaps and allow every child to receive free school meals. Meghan is a true champion of child nutrition and works endlessly to create sustainable change as we continue to fight childhood hunger. She is on a mission to feed all kids, regardless of income, and is truly is one of Illinois’ hunger heroes!