By doing special things for others Lunchroom manager whips up a recipe for enjoying her job
There’s a photo of her at the age of five in front of a big pan of just-baked cupcakes. To her left is a metal bowl full of icing. She waves a spoonful of the topping in the air but before she can decorate the cupcakes, she just has to have a taste. Stripes of white frosting frame her big smile.
Yolanda Pittman was getting an early lesson in cooking.
When she was just 11 or 12, she was a waitress for her Grandmother Doris Hutchinson’s restaurant, which was set up in a trailer behind her home off River Street in Blountstown. She served Sunday dinners to appreciative customers, helped with the cooking and saw how much people appreciated a good meal. Her grandmother also cooked at the Valley Cafe and did catering.
Her other grandmother, Annie Davis, gave cooking classes for the Calhoun County 4-H program so naturally, she picked up a few things along the way.
Those lessons weren’t wasted on her. After growing up and getting married, she found herself with four sons to feed. Something was always cooking in her kitchen.
During that time, she also held a full time job at Florida State Hospital and later did some substituting at the schools.
Just a few years ago, she studied baking and culinary arts at Keiser University in Tallahassee.
“I’ve been exposed to cooking forever,” said Pittman, who took on the responsibility of managing the Blountstown High School lunchroom last year. It’s a job she loves. “I have the best of both worlds,” she said. “I enjoy working with the kids and I get to cook, too!”
She said she’s never had a day she didn’t want to go to work, which is probably one of the reasons she was named Calhoun County’s 2017 School-Related Employee of the Year.
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She and her head cook arrive for work at 5:45 every morning. Much of her job is paperwork but she welcomes a chance to fill in when someone is out, taking turns operating the register, doing the milk count, taking care of the a la carte room and whipping up a sweet treat at least once a week for the staff to find when they gather in the teacher’s lounge.
She also has a little fun with the students by treating them to a surprise once a week on Lucky Tray Day. Those days, kids come in, grab a tray and turn it over. When she hears someone yell out “YES!” she knows they’ve found the neon-colored sticker on the bottom with the words “You Win!” They’re quick to claim their prize. Yolanda started out buying small gifts but soon discovered local businesses were happy to donate certificates and gift cards for the kids. “McDonald’s donated coupons for French fries and ice cream, Hungry Howie’s gave us pizza certificates, Lindy’s Chicken gave us Lindy’s Bucks and the Quick Pic has offered free Icees,” she said.
More than half the student body comes to the cafeteria for the free breakfasts and lunches. Kids who miss breakfast have a second chance to get something in their stomach before getting too far into their day. Yolanda sets up a “Grab and Go” table during the 10-minute morning break where students can pick up cereal bars, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, a piece of fruit or juice and milk.
She said lunchroom food has changed a lot since she was in school, when meals of fried chicken, white bread and cake were served. Even though they serve student favorites like hamburgers, chicken and gravy with rice and pizza. “It’s a lot healthier now,” she said, pointing out, “Everything’s whole grain or whole wheat, including the crust on the pizza.”
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She gets off work around 2:15 p.m. but her duties are far from over. “There are very few days I get to go straight home,” she said. There are errands to run and volunteer activities to take care of. She handles concessions at after-school sports events and helps keep the stats while watching her son, BHS junior Alex Buggs, play football, basketball and baseball.
She remarried in Sept. 2015 and shares a home with her new husband, Andre Pittman and her youngest son. Her other three sons each completed a year of college and joined the service. Her eldest, Paul Mosley, served four years in the Navy and lives in Virginia. Charles Buggs, Jr., also went into the Navy and lives in California. Jawon Mosley is in the Air Force in South Carolina.
Free time is rare but she enjoys reading, especially anything by James Patterson as well as inspirational books and murder mysteries. ESPN is the go-to channel on their family t.v. Her teams are the Florida Gators, the New York Yankees and the L.A. Lakers. When there’s a delay between games she may flip the channel over for some “Law and Order.”
Chances are she’s got a tray full of cupcakes in the oven at the same time, destined to be delivered to the teacher’s lounge when she returns to work the next day.