Ralph Williams cafeteria manager wins BPS Employee of the Year award


Jamie Skinner started the first Culinary Club at Williams Elementary School.

VIERA VOICE courtesy of Ashley Fischer

For Jamie Skinner, the role of cafeteria manager at Ralph Williams Elementary School is about more than planning the menu — she thinks that school cafeterias have a larger community responsibility.

“It’s important to me that kids learn about food, and really how to take care of themselves,” Skinner said. “I want them to be healthy
and safe.”

In January, Skinner was one of five Brevard Public Schools employees to be honored with an Applauding Brevard’s Champions award. Skinner was named BPS Employee of the Year for her hard work and passion in the Ralph Williams kitchen. It was the first time a Food and Nutrition Services employee won the award. 

A big part of the recognition? This fall, Skinner started the school’s first Culinary Club with a goal of teaching 50 students about food preparation and kitchen safety, with an emphasis on healthy choices. In the summer months, she sought private donations — from food to aprons  — in order to make the club free for students. More than 150 students applied for the program’s inaugural year. 

“I originally only had space and supplies for 25 students. I wanted to meet more of the demand for the club though so I split it into two separate semesters of 25 students each,” Skinner said.

It’s not just her students who should thank her, though. When Hurricane Matthew hit the Space Coast in October, Skinner manned the food portion of the medical and special needs hurricane shelter at Ralph Williams Elementary for four days. In addition to managing breakfast, lunch and dinner alongside volunteers for the 300 evacuees, Skinner made sure hot coffee and warm cookies were available 24 hours per day.

“I slept on a blow up mattress in the dry storage area,” Skinner said. “I tried to make it more bearable for people who left their home and belongings and didn’t know what they would return to find.”

Skinner is hoping the Culinary Club at Ralph Williams can serve as a pilot program for other schools in the district. She’s already planning for next year and hoping to accommodate even more students in the club.

For more information and to donate to Cranes Culinary Club, go to gofundme.com/cranes-culinary-club. The school also accepts donations in the front office