Last week I had lunch at the Silverado Middle School cafeteria.
It was my first-ever school lunch, even though I attended Silverado long ago when it was a junior high.
If school lunches had been as good then as they are now, I wouldn’t have brown-bagged my way through primary and secondary education.
I had the chicken meatballs with Sacramento rice — an entrée that most likely didn’t exist 30 years ago on a public school lunch menu.
The food was quite good. Better than I expected. By a lot.
I found myself in the Silverado cafeteria after being invited to lunch by parent Katie Aaron.
Katie led the charge to get Napa Valley Unified School District to dump its food contractor, Sodexo, and begin developing an in-house school lunch program focused on better tasting and healthier meals.
Katie spent years — seven in all — pleading, complaining, and coaxing district officials to end their relationship with Sodexo, which had contracted with NVUSD for decades.
The fight was not easy, but then again, Katie doesn’t give up easily.
Dogged would be one way to describe Katie, a parent with two kids in the NVUSD system.
Prying a bone from the hungry jaws of a Doberman Pinscher would be easier than getting Katie to give up on a cause she believes in.
Katie was once a Vintage High School teacher, before she decided to focus on raising her two children.
She’s very much a mom at heart, and not just with her kids.
“Don’t forget to go to the salad bar!” Katie bellowed at me last Thursday inside the noisy Silverado cafeteria after I picked up my meatballs and rice from the lunch counter.
Leave it to a mom to scold a reporter to not miss out on an essential food group.
I initially walked past the salad bar — not because I don’t like my veggies, but because I was distracted while thinking of other questions I wanted to ask for my interviews.
That was when Katie’s friend and fellow mom, Laura Milla-Miller, chimed in.
“Didn’t you hear the ladies there saying, ‘Get your vegetables,’ when you walked in?” Laura chided, grinning all the way. “C’mon, Noel!”
Needless to say I scampered back to the salad bar and quickly added some lettuce, cucumber, carrots and garbanzo beans to my meal before Katie and Laura started tag-teaming me with more motherly reminders.
Katie and Laura were regulars at school board meetings over the past couple of years.
Batman and Robin didn’t spend as much time together fighting crime as Katie and Laura did lobbying trustees and district leaders about the sad state of school lunches.
They collected and shared anecdotes, statistics, and financial data at the meetings.
Onetime, Katie conducted a junk food show-and-tell for the school board to demonstrate how many unhealthy snacks were being sold on school campuses through student stores.
That night she piled up bag after bag of chips and candies and more on the public podium, imploring trustees to take action.
Katie and Laura were passionate in their cause, and sometimes even in their remarks.
Laura once fought back tears as she addressed the school board about how unfair it was to feed children unhealthy meals, particularly the low-income kids whose only chance to eat during the day was a school lunch.
Katie and Laura, as well as a host of other moms who joined them in their fight, weren’t just battling for their kids sake.
They insisted the fight wasn’t about their children because their sons and daughters had the option to bring lunch to school, or buy it off campus.
It was the kids receiving free-and-reduced lunch who they wanted to help the most to get a square meal they could enjoy.
Now they can, as can all NVUSD students, thanks to the hard work and dedication of Katie, Laura, and their supporters.
I’m sure if the students knew who was responsible for the new grilled cheese sandwiches and other tasty entrees, they would all respond: Thanks, moms!