After 26 years of employment in the Brookings-Harbor School District, Food Service Supervisor Melody Gossard has sipped her last spoon, salted her last carrot, fed her last student and retired.
Gossard began her tenure with the district as a coach for the dance team and working in Chapter One — a program for struggling students — before becoming an administration secretary.
After 11 years of that Gossard saw a need and knew that she could improve the food.
Of course, her goal wasn’t to end up in food service.
“I didn’t say in high school that I wanted to be the lunch lady,” she explained. “I wanted to be a dancer in a cage. That was the only thing I wanted to do in high school, to dance in a cage. I wanted to be a go-go dancer.”
“That didn’t really work out,” she added with a chuckle.
Gossard has seen a number of changes in her 15 years as the lunch lady, including a move from a smaller, less-equipped kitchen to the modern kitchen she enjoys today.
And, while changes have been made in what she feeds the students every day, she made a number of changes shortly after she took the job.
“We got rid of the deep fryers the first year I was here,” Gossard said. “And we switched to whole grain breads — the way my grandmother thought bread should be.”
Some of the changes were a struggle for Gossard but she got through it.
“I want to do everything from scratch and I’m not a recipe cook,” she said. “So when I cook it changes a little every time and I struggle with the new guidelines that require everything to be the same every time.”
Having served more than 250,000 meals in her time as the lunch lady, Gossard has seen — and heard — a lot of interesting things.
“I had one kid come through and explain what dog poop looked like to me,” she said with a laugh. “The whole time he was just eating his lunch.”
This year marked a first for her in the 15 years she’s been in food service.
“We had a huge food fight this last year,” she said. “We’ve had little ones before, but nothing this big.”
“I walked out there and kids were holding their trays and just throwing food at each other,” she added. “I’ll tell ya, I wanted to join in. I wanted to laugh, and then I thought, ‘what would they think if I just picked up a spoon and started throwing food at them?’ ”
Reaching out to kids and making their meals special was a speciality of Gossard’s, according to her co-worker Cindy Crouch.
“She has always been concerned with the special-needs kids,” Crouch explained. “She would take a wash cloth out and wipe their faces because they needed it. She also loved the high school kids. She loved baking for them and watching them grow.
“A lot of them call her grandma.”
How much she gave to the students was evident when a group of senior boys came to Gossard for some kitchen advice.
“Four years ago a group of senior boys came in and had me show them how to make my gravy,” Gossard said. “They didn’t think they could survive at college without knowing how to make my gravy.”
Gossard’s favorite meal to make for the students was a full Thanksgiving dinner with ham, turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and all the works.
“Every year the Thanksgiving meal was my favorite,” Gossard said. “The kids’ favorite was probably the biscuits and gravy.”
Gossard plans to continue cooking as she travels to Virginia to help her daughter with her children while her son-in-law is stationed in Italy.
Gossard’s co-worker LaDina Cobarrubia is sad to see Gossard go.
“I think she is totally awesome and should be cloned,” Cobarrubia said. “The kids are really going to miss Melody’s cooking. She is really good at what she does.”