Interviewee: Joanne Conner

Interviewer: Jeffrey Boyce

Date: June 27, 2016

Location: St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

Description: Joanne Conner serves as a cook in the Virgin Islands.

Jeffrey Boyce: I’m Jeffrey Boyce and it’s June 27, 2016, and I’m here on St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, with Joanne Conner. Welcome Joanne and thanks for taking the time to talk with me.

Joanne Conner: You’re welcome.

JB: Could we begin today by you telling me a little bit about yourself, where you were born and where you grew up?

JC: I was born on the British island of Anguilla. It’s close to Saint Martin.

JB: Is that where you went to elementary school?

JC: Yes.

JB: Were there lunch programs there?

JC: No, because it’s British. It’s different from the U.S., so you don’t have any lunch programs. You have to take your lunch.

JB: So what brought you to St. Thomas?

JC: Cause my mom migrate here. So she was living on St. Thomas, so after a while you could apply for us, because it’s two different, British and U.S., so you have to apply for citizenship, so that’s how we came here.

JB: And how did you get involved in child nutrition?

JC: I love to cook. I have a passion for cooking. So I used to work downtown, I got laid off, so while working downtown I used to cook my food and I used to sell it and distribute it to my workers and stuff. So after I got laid off I used to continue cooking, and then my mom used to work Department of Education, so once they were hiring she told me to come and fill the application, and that’s how I started working in the child nutrition program.

JB: And when was that?

JC: 2013.

JB: So what is your title?

JC: Cook, Cook I.

JB: So what’s a typical day like for you? What time do you start and what do you do?

JC: At six o’clock in the morning, we come for six and we finish at two o’clock. From the time you reach you have to deal with breakfast, ‘cause our lunch starts at ten-thirty, ‘cause we have three different lunch sections. So it’s just a busy day. But I enjoy doing it because I enjoy cooking.

JB: What’s the favorite part of your job?

JC: Cooking.

JB: What’s your favorite things to prepare?

JC: Well, you know, you’re limited on what you cook here, because you have to follow a schedule and regulations, but whatever they give me to cook I take pride in doing it. One time we had a training at Sugar Bay, and one of the representatives came and she said, “You know, when you cook ask God to help you cook with grace,” so sometimes when I’m cooking I will say, “Father, just help me to cook with grace.”

JB: Yea. What are some of the children’s favorite menu items?

JC: They love when we do the ground meat. You mix it with a casserole. They love the casserole. They’re going to love pizza. They’re going to love the chicken tenders and those kind of stuff. But we try to cook that it will make it tasty for them and [palatable] for them to eat.

JB: Any challenges or difficulties you have with your job?

JC: I would not say I have any challenges or difficulties. Sometimes we are short on certain seasonings or stuff to help the food get a taste. That’s the only problem I think I have.

JB: What do you think is your most significant contribution to the program?

JC: Feeding the kids. It’s a pleasure and a joy to feed other people, because that’s what I do – away from the school, my home, whatever, I love to feed people, and that’s been in me through the years growing up, so feeding people.

JB: Do you have any special stories about special kids you’ve served or people you’ve worked with?

JC: Well actually, at my church, you know, after service we prepare sandwiches and cereals and stuff for those that are coming out from each service, so I’m a part of that at my church, and at my home, like I say, I would cook, and my neighbors, and my coworkers, that’s what I love to do.

JB: What advice would you give someone who was thinking about trying to get a job in child nutrition?

JC: The advice I will give them, you have to love what you do, because if you don’t love what you do, then you’re not going to do it to the best of your ability. So if you love cooking and you have that passion for cooking I think it’s a great idea to join the child nutrition program.

JB: Anything else you’d like to add today?

JC: I just love working here because I have that passion for cooking and serving the children.

JB: Well thanks for taking the time to talk with me.

JC: You’re welcome.