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“Sam is so modest. When she found out she won this award she turned it into a ‘Hero Day’ at school. All the students will dress in their favorite superhero costume and we’re going to have a school lunch superhero day. That’s Sam—she wants everyone else to have fun.” – Stephanie Dillard, SNS, Director, Geneva County Schools Child Nutrition

Samantha Ingram SNAA tireless employee who works not one, not two, but three jobs, Sam Ingram personifies the spirit of a School Nutrition Hero says her boss, Director Stephanie Dillard. In addition to her work as cafeteria manager of Samson Elementary in Geneva County Schools, Alabama, Sam is a devoted wife and mother and a tireless advocate for childhood cancer. After losing her 13-year-old son John-Dylan to a brain tumor in 2014, Sam dedicated herself to raising awareness and funds for childhood cancer. In her work to support Children’s Hospital of Alabama and Ronald McDonald House she not only keeps John-Dylan’s memory alive, Sam hopes to pay forward some of the comfort and kindness her family experienced while he received treatment.

“We spent a lot of time at the hospital, and though we only needed the Ronald McDonald House a few times, it doesn’t matter—if you need them one time or ten, they are wonderful at making sure you have what you need. As hard as it was going through what we went through with John-Dylan, we were very blessed by the outpouring of love and help, from our community and from people we didn’t even know. I needed to do something to give back.”

Giving back is at the core of how Sam Ingram lives her life—and how she conducts herself as cafeteria manager at an elementary school where the children lovingly refer to her as “Mrs. Sam.”

“Sam always has a smile on her face, and she’s always excited to be at work,” said Dillard. “She loves the children at her elementary school, and she’s always loving on those babies. She comes to school at 6:30 a.m. and leaves at three in the afternoon, then goes to her second job at the grocery store until as late as ten. She also works at the local recreation department, cooking and serving meals for the students there.”

Grateful for the recognition, Sam is quick to turn the spotlight back on her co-workers; it takes a team to care for the children, and she’s happy to be part of such a supportive group.

“I told Stephanie that I just come in and do my job taking care of these kids, but I’m not taking care of them by myself,” said Sam. “There are people in this school—and outside of this school—doing [the work]. I love what I do, I really like being around kids—they touch your heart.”

Like many school nutrition professionals Sam was seeking a job with hours that would allow her to spend more time with her kids, but quickly found that her new job was more like a calling. After spending a few years at the high school level she transferred to elementary, and that’s when she joined SNA and started going to meetings. Though she’s utilized many SNA resources over the years—attending district meetings and Webinar Wednesdays, for example—this will be Sam’s first Legislative Action Conference, and her first time in our nation’s capital.

“I’m excited but there are some things I’m nervous about—it’s my first time flying! And living in the South, sometimes I get talking and my Southern slang gets kind of strong! I’m looking forward to seeing something different, something new. I’m not a very political person but I am interested in going and sharing my input. It will be interesting to see the political aspect of [our job] and what everyone goes through to fight for child nutrition.”

Through her efforts to help children everywhere—be it through her “Blessings in a Bag” backpack program for students in her district, or charity fundraisers for childhood cancer awareness—Sam Ingram exemplifies what it means to be a School Nutrition Hero. We look forward to celebrating her, and all of our Heroes, at the Celebration for School Nutrition Heroes on Monday, February 29!

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