In January of 2002, just a few months after the terrorist attacks of September 11, the food service students at Warren Technical High School in Atlanta, Georgia took on a unique and heartwarming project. They decided to help the men and women of the Georgia National Guard, who were enforcing the heightened security at Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport, by making lunches for the troops one day each week. They prepared a delicious and nutritious lunch that would appeal to the healthy appetites of these hungry soldiers. The Warren Tech students started sending 200 delicious lunches each Friday, and they are still sending them -18 months later.
Warren Technical School, part of the DeKalb County School System in suburban Atlanta, is unique in Georgia. It is the only public vocational high school solely for students with a range of disabilities. The Warren Tech students are taught skills that will enable them to enter the world of work after graduation. Young people with disabilities do not often get the chance to serve others, and these teenagers have taken to the lunch project with refreshing enthusiasm.
As the 20 students learn to prepare, package and present food, they turn out delicious lunches each Thursday. The lunches include sandwiches, slaw, salads and cookies. Each week the students make one extra and delicious item. This could be a cake, or a platter of deviled eggs, or something equally tempting – it depends on the time of year, the weather and the season. The Salvation Army picks up the lunches each week and delivers them to the USO at the airport.
In April of 2002, the Georgia National Guard troops were relieved of duty as the security situation changed. Mary Lou Austin, President of USO Georgia, immediately requested that the Warren students continue to make the lunches for the USO. Ms. Austin said that the large numbers of military personnel passing through the Atlanta airport cannot afford expensive airport food and would really appreciate the lunch. For over a year now, the USO has received 150 lunches every Thursday and they have been very well received. Each lunch includes an evaluation form -and the evaluations are overwhelmingly positive, with heartfelt thanks included from military personnel being deployed to countries around the world.
This wonderful project is a collaborative effort between Warren Tech, The Salvation Army and the Georgia Learning Resources System. GLRS pays for the food, and the Salvation Army is responsible for the weekly “Lunch Run” to the airport. In addition, the DeKalb County School System helps with goods and services; Warren Tech teachers volunteer their time, and chefs from the American Culinary Federation volunteer assistance in helping the students to prepare these tasty lunches. The ultimate winners are the students, who are honing their culinary skills while learning how deeply satisfying it is to help others.