A Full Plate of Responsibility, Served With Care

WHEELING – Erin Roth has a grocery list’s worth of responsibilities.

As the hot lunch program supervisor for Our Lady of Peace School, Roth has been serving up meals on a volunteer basis for the past nine years. When she learned the previous volunteer supervisor was leaving and the school would most likely need to work with a caterer for lunches, Roth and fellow Our Lady of Peace moms decided to see what they could do.

“A lot of us weren’t working then,” Roth said.

With her responsibilities including menu planning, ordering and shopping for ingredients and cooking, Roth has a full plate. Yet she still makes room to coach basketball and volleyball, as well as serve on the Athletic Executive Committee for the school.

“The more I take on, the more organized I get,” she said. “Everyone’s really supportive.”

Support has been an essential component of the lunch program that operates three lunch periods a day from Monday through Thursday. Fridays are “pack-a-lunch” days. Two or three volunteers assist with serving and clean-up for every lunch. Roth relies on a schedule to keep organized.

The concepts of dinner for lunch – including the staple main course, vegetable and fruit – and breakfast for lunch guide the approach to meals. Baked steak, chicken with gravy and students’ favorite, homemade macaroni and cheese, are some of the main course options.

Over time, Roth has learned to adjust menu items based on feedback. Surprisingly, students are not big on sandwiches, Roth said.

Our Lady of Peace Principal C’Ann Reilly credits Roth with having well thought-out and planned meals that center on healthy eating habits.

“Erin’s time, commitment, and creativity are gifts to student, faculty and school families,” Reilly said. “She solicits the help of parents and grandparents who cheerfully work with her.

She’s the gift that keeps on giving.”

Roth said she doesn’t consider her efforts to be work.

“It’s just something we could do,” Roth said, adding she hopes parents take on leadership of the volunteer program after her departure in one year. “There’s been some talk already.”

Just as Reilly describes Roth as the heart and soul of the kitchen, volunteers and students alike share the sentiment.

“I remember the first day I walked in to volunteer for hot lunch and was greeted by this genuinely kind lady,” said Sandy Mahoney, grandmother of seventh-grader Shane Hercules. “She could tell I was nervous and she immediately said, ‘This is our home away from home. We cook here as we would cook for our own family, just in a greater quantity, but with the same care.’ Erin is absolutely fantastic, and all the kids love her.”

Third-grader Sienna Miller believes “hot lunch is awesome because Mrs. Roth makes it taste really good.”