School’s Out for Summer So We’re Talking About Lunch Lady Day!
For my kids, school ended two days ago. A long, long two days ago. So it seemed appropriate to look back at all those workers who tirelessly take care of our kids during the day. We tend to hear about the teachers and the librarians a lot, but what about the lunch workers? Where’s their parade? Where’s their special day?
As it just so happens, they have a special day. May 6th. That would be School Lunch Hero Day and it was begun by none other than the creator of the Lunch Lady series, Jarrett Krosoczka himself. Some book creators start their own bookstores. Some buy small islands and declare themselves king. And some celebrate folks in the service industry, even before COVID made it a thing.
It was my very great pleasure to talk to Jarrett a bit more about not just his Lunch Lady books, but about the day in question:
Betsy Bird: Jarrett! How long it’s been! So great getting to ask you some questions today. I want to begin by getting in a little fan service and letting you know that my 8-year-old has systematically read through all your LUNCH LADY books (and even the LUNCH LADY comics that pop up in other comic collections as well). He particularly appreciated the new full-color editions. When you began the series, did you have any inkling of how well it would do down the road all these years later?
Jarrett Krosoczka: It has indeed been a minute! Or a few years? I can’t remember. The pandemic has totally warped my sense of time. That is so very cool that your reader has torn through the Lunch Lady books.
I never assumed that the Lunch Lady series would still be around all these years later, but I certainly hoped that the books would resonate with young readers. When these graphic novels first published in 2009, publishers weren’t so sure that the comics format would do well. There was a hesitation in printing anything in full color, hence the initial limited color palette. But having these books perform so well that they now get the full-color treatment is hugely rewarding.
BB: You were celebrating essential workers long before it was cool. As early as 2012 you were celebrating School Lunch Hero Day on May 6th. Can you tell me a little bit about how this Day came to be? Was it your idea from a start or did someone else suggest it?
JK: At the book launch in July of 2009, I invited Jeanne and Betty, the beloved lunch ladies from my old elementary school, to the launch event at the Worcester Public Library. I presented them with art and books, and a standing-room-only crowd, filled with people they fed over the years, erupted in thunderous applause. Shortly after the event, I received thank-you cards from them. In these notes, they told me how they loved every single kid who came through their lunch line. That realization hit me. Instinctively I knew that, but it had never been verbalized. Over the next few years, the school lunch teams were invited into the programming at my author visits. What I saw was a bridge being built between disparate groups at schools. The lunch ladies, lunch dudes, and lunch folk were all feeling incredibly validated, and it strengthened the community at every school that I visited.
See the video: Why I Founded School Lunch Hero Day.
When Jeanne passed away in 2011, I attended her wake. I was gobsmacked to see that the family had placed the artwork I gifted her next to her coffin. Her widow explained how much that gesture had meant to her and how, with that small act of kindness, I had validated her life’s work. By the time I drove home, my brain was churning with ideas for what would become School Lunch Hero Day.
BB: So how does one go about celebrating School Lunch Hero Day? Where can people go for suggestions? And what are some of the best versions of the Day you’ve seen over the years?
JK: It can be as simple as a thank-you card, and it can be as extravagant as a choreographed performance. I have seen it all! I have seen governors and mayors issue legal proclamations declaring it School Lunch Hero Day in their cities and states and I have seen principals serve gourmet meals to their lunch teams. We have resources and ideas over at SchoolLunchHeroDay.com. My favorite is the downloadable greeting cards that were very much inspired by the Valentine’s Day cards we traded as kids.
One of the most incredible celebrations I have seen, I witnessed firsthand. I had noticed that a group of librarians in the Houston Independent School District had been making the celebration a big deal in their community. So in 2015, I flew down to join in. The students went all out—it was an awe-inspiring day. Students lined the hallways with artwork, and they wrote poems and thank-you notes. For lunch, each lunch hero was seated at a table with students in the library and served a catered meal! The entire day culminated with this big Broadway-style production filled with songs and choreographed dance numbers!
BB: If I run into anyone having a bad day today, I’m just gonna show them those lunch ladies’ moves. Was there anything particularly keen planned for this year’s 10th anniversary of School Lunch Hero Day?
I visited a school in Connecticut this year in honor of the day. Super Fly Lunch Lady over on TikTok and I connected on that platform during the pandemic, and she and he team have been doing some astoundingly amazing work!
BB: Finally, will we be seeing any more Lunch Lady comics, or would you say they’ve run their course?
JK: Oh yes, you will! I am working on new stories and those new entries will follow the new format of the 2-for-1 Special editions. Full-color, paper over board, larger trim size, and longer page count! And more audiobooks too! If you haven’t listened to the full-cast recording starring Kate Flannery…the are…**chef’s kiss**. I am super proud of those productions!
Big thanks to Jarrett for allowing me to talk to him about the legacy of the Lunch Lady in all its myriad forms. Thanks too to Melissa Bloomfield for setting all of this up!
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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