Interviewee: Annette Gerard

Interviewer: Jeffrey Boyce

Date: June 27, 2016

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

Description: Annette Gerard served as a school food service manager in the Virgin Islands.

Jeffrey Boyce: I’m Jeffrey Boyce and it is June 27, 2016. I’m here in Red Hook on the island of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands with Annette Gerard. Welcome Annette and thanks for taking the time to talk with me.

Annette Gerard: No problem.

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

AG: I was born in St. Thomas and I grew up downtown.

JB: Oh, so you’re a local.

AG: Um-hum.

JB: Not many of you here I don’t think. So you went to school here?

AG: Yes.

JB: Were there lunch programs when you were going to school?

AG: Yes there were.

JB: Did you participate?

AG: Most likely yes I did.

JB: Do you remember any of your favorite menu items?

AG: I loved the vegetables and the desserts.

JB: What kinds of desserts do they serve here in St. Thomas?

AG: Apple sauce, fruit cocktail, pineapple.

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

AG: I went and discovered fast food industry and then I came from there over to school lunch.

JB: OK. How long have you been in school lunch?

AG: Seventeen years.

JB: Has there been a mentor or anyone who kind of helped guide your career along the way?

AG: Yes, Ms. Elodia Wiki and Ms. Izaak.

JB: So they’ve helped you?

AG: Um-hum.

JB: So what positions have you held?

AG: When I came in I came in as a manager.

JB: OK. Are you still a manager?

AG: Yes I am.

JB: What’s a typical day like as a manager? What do you have to do?

AG: A typical day for me is I multi-task. I get my hands into everything.

JB: What time do you come in? What time does your day start?

AG: I get up at four and I get here for six, and I leave around two.

JB: OK. And so you start with breakfast I assume?

AG: Yes.

JB: Do you make your own menus?

AG: No. The menus come from School Lunch and we have to follow the menu.

JB: Is there anything unique about the Virgin Islands regarding the child nutrition programs?

AG: Basically it’s to help feed the kids and have them have a good day in school. To keep them going. That’s my main goal.

JB:  What are some of the biggest challenges you face in your job?

AG: Biggest challenges are some of the foods that we have serving the children. Some of them don’t like that or they don’t get certain things at home, and it’s difficult for them to experience it.

JB: So it’s foods that they’re not accustomed to eating.

AG: Right.

JB: I see. How do you deal with that?

AG: I try to tell them that we take time to make it, and it tastes good. It would be good for you to eat during the day, because some of the kids might not have gotten breakfast at home. Just to keep them up, and have them not fall below the line.

JB: What are some of the kids’ favorite menu items?

AG: Some of them like the chicken and rice. They like the corn. They like the broccoli.

JB: Oh, they like broccoli?

AG: Um-hum.

JB: How do you prepare that?

AG: Basically I would steam them. After they are done I would throw out the water and keep them in a warmer to serve, and try to do it by batch.

JB: Do you sauce them at all, cheese sauce or anything?

AG: Rarely.

JB: Oh, and they eat plain broccoli?

AG: Um-hum.

JB: That’s excellent. I’m impressed. What changes have you seen over the years as you’ve been working?

AG: The changes are the foods that are coming in. It’s different from where you started with to every year becomes something else, so you have to experiment in order to get the kids to like it.

JB: Do you do any scratch cooking here?

AG: It depends. The only scratch cooking that we did was chicken soup, and the kids, they love that.

JB: What would you say has been your most significant contribution to feeding the kids?

AG: My basic contribution is preparing a good meal for them to have and to see them sit and eat the meal, and come back and say, “The food was good.”

JB: What advice would you give someone who was thinking of child nutrition as a career today?

AG: The advice I would give them, like I have given myself over the years, is that I’ve watched kids that when I worked from elementary to now that I’m in high school, I’ve seen them come up along the line, and I basically fit myself in working for the kids, for them to maintain and grow up and move on.

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

AG: Yea. I have one kid that I used to deal with in elementary. She goes here at the high school now. And basically every day she would come by and she would be like, “Mrs. Gerard this food tastes good and I could have some more.” I say, “Sure. You could go back and have some more.” And she would come next to me and we would have a little conversations and she would help me count. And to see now that she’s in high school, she does the same thing. She comes by and we talk. I just basically do for the kids.

JB: So you’ve been a mentor to her then?

AG: Yep.

JB: That’s very nice. Anything else you’d like to add today?

AG: I think I’ll do this for a good long time. I wouldn’t go anywhere else. I just basically do it for the kids.

JB: I think the kids are lucky to have you. Thanks for taking the time to talk with me today. It’s been a pleasure.

AG: No problem. Thank you.