Interviewee: Nancy Miura
Interviewer: Josephine Martin
Date: March 14, 2007

Description: Nancy Miura is a retired school food service manager and a past-president of the Oahu School Food Service Association, having served several terms as president of the Oahu association. Nancy remains very interested in child nutrition and continues to attend the School Nutrition Association’s Annual National Conferences, along with Peggy Nakamoto, another Oahu School Food Service Association past-president.

Josephine Martin: I’m Josephine Martin. I’m here on the beautiful island of Oahu, Hawaii, in Honolulu. It’s March 14, 2007. With me is Nancy Miura, a former State Department of Education School Nutrition Specialist, and also a former manager and a friend. Nancy, I am so delighted to see you again and to have an opportunity to hear your history of child nutrition programs. Tell me about yourself, where you grew up, what island you grew up on, and how you got started in child nutrition.

Nancy Miura: Well, thank you Josephine, and I’m glad to be here with you. I was born and raised in a place called Maliko, Maui, a very isolated place. And I went to an elementary school which had no cafeteria, no food service programs. First grade through eight grade we took home lunches. And one notable thing about our school, it was a very small school, but across the street, Patsy Takemoto lived there. And then she went to the same high school I did.

JM: How exciting! So, Patsy Mink was a neighbor of yours.

NM: Of the school. Of the school.

JM: Senator Patsy Mink, that is.

NM: Yes. And I think we lived about three miles away from the school. We did not live in the community. My parents worked in the pineapple cannery and pineapple fields. They were immigrants from Okinawa. So anyway, I became familiar with the cafeteria program when I became a ninth grader at Maui High School. There we had hot lunches and I think there was no such thing as free lunch at that time. This was in 1948 that I became a ninth grader. And I don’t remember getting a free lunch, because I know our family would have received free lunch if we had known about it. After graduation from high school I left Maui and came to Honolulu. You know, people come to Honolulu to get an education. And I attended Honolulu Vocational School. It is a training school for cafeteria managers. It was a two-year program and during the first year we had to go out to a school to do cadet cooking. And then the second year, at least for one semester, we were called cadet managers. We had to do all the manager’s work. At that time, an interesting thing is the schools served poi. Right now we don’t serve poi. They served poi. They served fresh fish, cooked in a teri sauce. And this is how I became involved in child nutrition, because, after graduation we had to take a civil service test and we were placed in schools that were vacant, whether on this island, the Big Island, or Maui. That was our first experience as a manager. I was assigned to a small school on the Big Island. It was a sugarcane plantation village. We had about 100 lunches and we started out with a kerosene stove, a two-burner kerosene stove. You have to fill the kerosene tanks every day. Otherwise you’ll be without fuel. It was not easy. The oven was a portable oven that you place on top of the stove if you wanted to bake anything. We sanitized dishes in a big stainless steel tank with boiling water and we would dip the dishes in a rack and if it spilled then you would have to pick the dishes up one at a time.

JM: Now what year was this Nancy? About what year was it?

NM: I was assigned to my first school in September 1954.


NM: I was the manager, the cook, the cleaning woman, everything you know. I didn’t have any help. And then the second school that I did go to was a high and elementary school on the same island in Pahoa, and there I had a cook and a helper. And then I transferred to Oahu. I returned to Oahu to go to school again. And then I got married and had a child, so I didn’t completely finish my bachelor’s. But I did go to the community college and got a degree in School Food Service Management. In later years, after working 22 ½ years as a manager at different schools, I then worked 25 years as a School Food Service Supervisor for the state office. I also taught School Food Service Record Keeping and School Food Service Management Internship at Kapiolani Community College, which is part of the university system, for several semesters.

JM: I was interested in the comment that you had a degree in School Food Service Management. Is that program still going on?

NM: No. In 1994 the school said, “We don’t have funds.”, so that program was cut. However, it was cut for a good reason, because the state department began hiring managers from within. In other words, cooks who met the minimum qualifications could become managers. And so the students who went through the management internship program, if they were not in the school system, they couldn’t get a job as a manager. That was another reason why they stopped the program. They are trying to put the program back together, but unless the state of Hawaii changes its hiring procedures….you know, they don’t take an exam now. They used to take a civil service exam. But now, you don’t have to anymore. If you have the experience, you can become a manager.

JM: I want to go back to the time when you were in high school on Maui and you had your first experience with the school lunch program. What kind of food was served then?

NM: They didn’t call it Type A Lunch, but they did have all the components: the meat item, the starch, the fruit and vegetable, but you had to buy the milk separately at that time.

JM: That’s interesting. So, you had 22 ½ years as a manager and then you were in the department twenty-five years.

NM: Yes.

JM: What did you do in the department?

NM: I first applied as a supervisor for the island of Kauai and the Honolulu District Secondary Schools, where we trained managers, overseeing their work and checked the menu. And then I was assigned to the Big Island, Hawaii District. I was a supervisor for the entire island schools on the Big Island, and part of the job was reviewing the free lunch applications at each school, and besides, training the managers, meeting with them, workshops and overseeing their work.

JM: About how many schools did you have on the Big Island?

NM: I believe about thirty.

JM: Were you still living on Oahu?

NM: I was living on Oahu. This was my home base, and I would fly to the Big Island and maybe work three or four days at a time, and then return to Oahu and work a day or two in the office. So that went on for about ten years. Then I became the supervisor for the Child and Adult Care Food Program and the elderly program. And we also had the Summer Program. Our office, as you know, was a state office as well as the School Food Authority, and when that split up several years ago, then I stayed with the School Lunch office. And then I went back to the public schools.

JM: So you went over on the School Authority side when the reorganization took place?

NM: Yes.

JM: How long have you been retired?

NM: I retired in December 2004. That’s 47 years plus a few months of service. I enjoyed every bit of it.

JM: I know you did. If you had to just pick out one wonderful experience out of those 47 years what would be the most memorable experience that you had Nancy?

NM: I believe being a member of the American School Food Service Association is part of being in the child nutrition program. I think that was the most memorable experience. Hawaii did a lot to promote getting the 1976 National Conference here in Hawaii and I was very instrumental in what we tried to do. And in October 1971 I went to Denver to ask the Executive Board for the final time to please bring the convention to Hawaii. And they did. They had refused several times. But this was the last last-ditch effort. And they finally said yes.

JM: That had to be a memorable experience. Were you president in ’71?

NM: Yes.

JM: I know you were very active in ’76-’77.

NM: We recycle state presidents. So I was president just about then and then in 1976. Then several times after that.

JM: Oh, several times after?

NM: In order to keep the association strong and growing we had to pitch in. It wasn’t always that you could railroad people to become officers. Railroad is not a good word to use, but, you know, you have to just plead with them, then work with them, and sometimes just practically doing the work along with them, you know?

JM: I know you were very actively involved and I remember that ’76 convention and how much the association did for the American School Food Service Association. I remember the beautiful flowers you brought in and it was just so exciting. Tell me about the banquet that year. Remember, there were two banquets?

NM: In 1976, there were not enough spaces for the entire conference conferees, and so there was a banquet on two nights, separate banquets. And the association had leis for every participant as a part of the registration package.

JM: That was such an exciting conference that you inspired and helped happen. Now, in your work with the State Department of Education what was that thing that you did that was just so memorable? I’m sure you must have worked with several state directors didn’t you?

NM: Yes, I did, in fact three. When I was a manager we had our first director, Florence Wagner, from Florida.

JM: Oh, you knew Florence.

NM: Yes.

JM: Wasn’t she a lovely lady?

NM: And she started training programs for us employees, for the managers. And I remember she assigned me to do the evaluation of one of the workshops. And my name was “Mrs. Evaluation”.

JM: [Laughs].

NM: Florence always called me “Mrs. Evaluation”.

JM: She believed in evaluation.

NM: Yes.

JM: And she was always coming up with these cute names for anyone who was involved in the training.

NM: Yes, yes.

JM: I remember like “Miss Menu Planning” and “Mr. Purchasing Agent”.

NM: Yes. And our next director came from Minnesota, St. Paul or Minneapolis, Mr. Stanley Doucette.

JM: Oh, yes. Stanley Doucette.

NM: And after him we had Eugene Kaneshiro. Oh, I’m sorry, not Eugene Kaneshiro. It was Richard Hiramoto.

JM: Oh, that’s when Richard Hiramoto was here.

NM: Yes. And then he worked for ten years and then Eugene Kaneshiro was here for thirteen years.

JM: I didn’t realize Eugene was here that long.

NM: He started in 1990 and he left just about a year ago.

JM: And that’s when Sue Uyehara came.

NM: Sue has the State Director position and there is a new person for the School Food Authority.

JM: Yes, yes. Well, you have seen a lot of changes in the school nutrition program in Hawaii, from the time that it was just a lunch program; you’ve worked with the Child and Adult Care, and you’ve worked with the Summer Program, and the nutrition program for the elderly. So, you’ve covered all of those chairs in your career.

NM: Yes.

JM: Or, you have sat in all those chairs in your career.

NM: I do want to add something else about the association. In 1972, at the Seattle conference, the Hawaii School Food Service Association opened the conference with the President’s Hawaiian Party. And we took entertainers from the Hawaiian Airlines, and our members went up on the stage and entertained the group. I know we took tons of pineapple and pineapple was served to people. That was just before the opening session. And then, in 1975, we closed the Chicago conference with entertainment from Aloha Airlines, and our members dancing the hula. Our members started to take hula lessons so they could entertain at the conference. And I’m still taking hula lessons.

JM: Oh, are you really? What fun! Well, I guess these are some of the memories that I have of Hawaii, the wonderful ways that you have added to the national convention over the years, the beautiful flowers that you always bring, and the officers always have the leis or the anthuriums or the Birds of Paradise. You have really shared your culture with those of us from the mainland, and it’s been so important. Anything else that you would like to share with us? What are the major changes that you feel have taken place in the child nutrition programs themselves?

NM: Well, the federal regulations have become tougher. [Laughing] And the meal requirements and the Offer vs. Serve program have been very rough for the secondary schools, where they are so used to serving all of the food. And now, you know, the students get to choose and the schools complain that, “We have only X amount of time for the lunch period, and we just cannot handle it.” But, they have to. They just have to have Offer vs. Serve.

JM: Well now, Nancy do you think that some of this has come about because of when you were coming along, there was a state training program that you participated in, and you understood the reason for this. And now, this crop of managers haven’t had that sort of training?

NM: Well, the School Food Authority supervisors have a training every summer for their own districts and a few managers have not adjusted. They do it unwillingly let’s say. But I hope everybody’s adhering to the Offer vs. Serve policy.

JM: Well, choice is a good thing with the young people that we serve today. They really demand choice. And it does create a different approach to doing the same kind of work. But I just know your name if just fixed in the history of the child nutrition program in Hawaii and I’m just so appreciative, and I know the National Food Service Management Institute is appreciative that you would take this time to share your memories with the Institute and with people all over, because your oral history will be available on the Institute’s webpages. And there will be bits of your interview available to listen to at the NFSMI website. And people all over the world will be able to hear how you got started here in Hawaii. So, if there is one more thing, let’s have it now!

NM: Well, I’m not used to publicity.

JM: Oh Nancy, you were President, President, President. Good leadership, Good leadership, Good leadership, and I know all of Hawaii is thankful to you for the kind of leadership that you gave to the association and also to the growth of the child nutrition programs, whether school, summer, or whatever. So, we do thank you for being here, for coming out this afternoon and sharing this with us.

NM: Well, it really is an honor to be interviewed by you Josephine.

JM: And I’m honored to be the one to get to talk with you. So, we will both look forward to seeing and hearing more about this interview when it gets on the web. How about that?

NM: All right!

JM: And thank you. I know the Institute and Dr. Oakley will be appreciative. And Mr. Boyce, our Archivist, will be very grateful that you would come out this afternoon, so thank you very much Nancy.

NM: Thank you.