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Dan Gorman, September Dykema heed the call in feeding, educating Montague students

Gorman holds title of Food Service Director, while Dykema serves as Garden Educator.

MONTAGUE – September Dykema was born in Montague, where she currently resides. You might say that she knows the lay of the land.

She and Dan Gorman, Food Service Director for Montague Area Public Schools, take great care and pride in nutritional education and feeding the district’s students.

“I love working with kids and sharing my entrepreneurial background, experience, and knowledge of growing (healthy foods),” said Dykema, who is Garden Educator for Montague schools and has been employed by the district for five years.

“My role and purpose as Garden Educator is to help students make a connection with where their food comes – to help them realized its importance and how it affects their daily lives.”

Gorman brings a wealth of experience to his position at Montague, which also includes Auditorium Manager. His responsibilities include staffing, finances, menu planning, and USDA compliance.

Gorman has spent 25 years in schools – all of them with Montague — and 12 years in restaurants.

Photos courtesy of Montague High School

According to Gorman, the most rewarding part of his job is to develop a system that provides great, healthy, local food to students.

“Our program has been the driving force in over a million dollars in grant funding for Muskegon County health and wellness efforts,” he said. “We have been awarded a national grant (one of eight in the country) for $600,000 to increase scratch cooking and incorporate more local foods.”

Over the years, Gorman has seen a significant increase in regulation in school meals, not only nutritionally but also with staff training, purchasing requirements, and financial requirements.

Obstacles come about, but Gorman and Dykema are always doing their best to take care of the needs of the district.

“Time is always the great obstacle,” Dykema said. “You just capture their attention or get deep into a project and the kids have to move on to their next class. This is especially difficult with the younger ones. I’m sure this is a challenge with all teaching professionals, that we’d just love more time.”

Dykema said her day-to-day changes every week and seasonally. For example, spring time is perhaps the busiest time of year.

Time is spent outdoors doing projects with students, taking them on field trips, helping other garden educators, planning, and team meetings.

Gorman stays plenty busy with office work, staff connections, regional meetings, and much more. He realized a number of years ago that this is his calling.

“As I had children, the mix and the quality of life that you had in a restaurant didn’t fit the person I wanted to be, so I was able to find schools,” he said. “And, really, I did it mainly for the work – to do that. And as I got into it, it’s a calling now. It’s something that I have a great amount of passion for and I just feel really lucky to be able to do it.”

Lead writer for CatchMark SportsNet and Web Services leader for CatchMark Technologies.

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