Charlie Peterman, the food services manager for Crosspointe Elementary School, had finished serving lunch for students Wednesday when a coworker brought her into the cafeteria. Peterman thought she had been called in to talk more about a new product ConAgra Foods was testing.
Instead, Peterman found herself the center of attention.
Principal Ann Marie Dilbert announced that food giant ConAgra Foods was honoring Peterman with the School Meal Hero award.
“I’m overwhelmed with the generosity of everybody,” said Peterman , who has worked at Crosspointe for about five years.
While munching on pizza bites and drinking apple juice, the second- and third-graders cheered for Peterman and chanted her name. Peterman’s family surprised her by showing up, especially her daughter Abbey, a junior at the University of Florida.
Charlie and Abbey run Abbey’s Angels , a nonprofit program that helps homeless and foster-care children. The organization collects suitcases and fills them with essentials for the children. Abbey, who has volunteered at the school for years, and her mom started the program at Crosspointe about two years ago. Abbey’s Angels reaches out to Palm Beach County schools to find children who would benefit from the suitcases.
Abbey kept her visit Wednesday a secret. She had previously told her mom she planned to do school work all day.
“She’s one of the most hardworking, most humble people I know,” Abbey said. “And I’m not just saying that because she’s my mom.”
The School Meal Hero program recognizes child nutrition professionals who make a difference and cause others to rethink school meals, according to a statement. Previous Palm Beach County winners include Cyndi Talbott of Royal Palm School and Kathy Jo Belcourt of Royal Palm Beach Elementary School.
During her years at the school at 3015 S. Congress Avenue, Peterman has served about 855,000 meals over breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack.
She was nominated by colleague Courtney Roper.
In Roper’s nomination letter, she said Peterman “treats every child like they are her own. Humble, kind, sweet, caring, nurturing are just a few words to describe this amazing person.”