Ana Bush Feeds Her Local Community
The San Ysidro School District is a prime example of how it takes a community to feed a community. Ana Bush, Lead Specialist at San Ysidro Middle School, was born and raised in the community of San Ysidro and has been working for the district’s Child Nutrition Services (CNS) department for 30 years. During her time with the district, Ana has served in many different roles, from starting off as a 3-hour per day staff member, to coordinating food production efforts as the Area Production Manager, and now working as a Lead Specialist at San Ysidro Middle School.
As the Lead Specialist at San Ysidro Middle School, Ana brings new and engaging programs to connect with students. Ana’s programs include student cooking competitions, nutrition lessons, and hands-on garden activities. Many of these programs are centered around introducing and encouraging students to try new varieties of fruits and vegetables. Ana describes it as “getting students away from the apple, orange, and banana mentality.” From Ana’s experience, her students want to be involved in the programs she offers at the middle school because they take pride and responsibility for the program. “When I first started working with the district, it was just a job to support my family,” Ana explains, “But as the years went by, I realized I really enjoy working with kids.”
San Ysidro Middle School previously had a small orange grove that Ana would bring some of the classes to, “We talk about fruits and vegetables, how they are grown, and we even had students pick the ripe oranges for the cafeteria's salad bar.” It doesn’t get any more home grown than that!
When connecting with students in the cafeteria, Ana tries to put a strong emphasis on the options available on the salad bar because many students don’t have access to the variety of options at home. Ana reminds her students, “You have four choices of what to eat today and a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables. Take advantage of this, try something new. You never know, you might just like it!”
Ana also shares the endless options offered on the salad bar with parents during open house nights. “Parents are surprised with the food options we offer to the students,” Ana explains, “I’ve noticed that after talking to parents at open houses, the fruit and vegetable consumption goes up...When students see how excited Mom and Dad are about what’s on the salad bar, it gets them excited as well.”
Ana also leads an annual program called the “Kids Cooking Competition.” Students from kindergarten through 8th grade dress up as chefs, create their own healthy 5-ingredient recipes, and present their creations to a panel of judges. Competition winners were awarded with physical activity related prizes like a Wii, bicycles, and gift cards to sport equipment stores. Ana reflects, "It was great to involve the students in this competition, and to be able to see the pride that they had in their recipes was amazing. This program provided them with a real-life lesson.”
In addition to the fun programs offered to San Ysidro students, Ana also enjoys creating tasty “treats” for her students. Two student favorites include the oven cooked Buffalo Wings that can fill the campus hallways with a mouthwatering aroma, locally-caught Oppah tacos, and Halibut ceviche. Click here to read more about some of tasty meals the San Ysidro District offers to their students.
While many teachers, custodians, and district departments have had to adjust their day-to-day routines due to the pandemic, Ana believes that following precautionary (sanitary) protocols has always been of a top priority for her and the CNS staff. Ana explains, “Food Service hasn’t really changed because this is our life. We have always been very cautious with cross contamination, virus or not."
On Wednesdays, Ana and the CNS team can be found distributing nutritious meal packs to families in need. These packs include seven different breakfast meals, along with seven different lunch meals. “I know that on meal distribution day, the parents are very happy, you can tell that they are struggling. We’re here to serve our community because our community is our students.” To learn more about school meal pick up sites, please click here.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has affected countless communities worldwide, Child Nutrition Service departments and staff members aren’t backing away from their mission of feeding their students. “I strongly feel that a lot of our students wouldn’t have food if it wasn’t for us,” Ana explains, “They are a vulnerable population, and they are our future.”
As for Ana, she will continue to encourage and serve the students in the school district. “I love my job, and I do not plan on retiring anytime soon,” Ana shares. Ana’s whole family, including her grandchildren, have grown up in the San Ysidro community, and Ana hopes to continue to inspire the next generation of students in making healthy food choices.