Linda Peterson is used to having a lot of little mouths to feed. For the last thirty years, she has worked as Nantucket Public Schools’ head of food services. Over that time, Peterson has overcome many unique obstacles to ensure that all island children get fed, occasionally even reaching into her own pocket to pay for their meals. But with the closing of schools due to the coronavirus, Peterson faced an entirely unprecedented set of circumstances in serving her little diners.
Along with the logistical challenges of safely distributing breakfast and lunch into the hands of children, the demand on her kitchen grew exponentially as more and more working families were forced to forgo paychecks. “With each passing week, we’ve seen new families in need,” Peterson said. “And they’re so grateful for these meals for their children.”
The success of the breakfast and lunch program is a credit to Peterson’s quick thinking and innovative leadership. With many of her normal staff members forced to stay home due to their own vulnerabilities to the virus, Peterson sought out the assistance of Patrick Ridge, who had publicly pledged that his restaurant Island Kitchen would help ensure that no child went hungry on Nantucket.
While Ridge’s inspiring commitment was quick to grab headlines, Peterson continued working quietly behind the scenes. “Linda is really the unsung hero in all this,” Ridge said. Coordinating two new chefs whom Ridge sent over, Peterson created a whole process for cooking wholesome, healthy meals that she now distributes by way of Ridge’s Island Kitchen food trucks. As children pick up their lunches with their parents, Peterson is reminded every day that she and her team are a critical cornerstone of the island's food pyramid.