New Greenville food service director brings culinary touch to job

By Lonnie Allen • Last Updated 10:22 am on Thursday, September 27, 2012

Food Services Director Kenneth Poor hands a fresh sandwich to a Greenville High School student during lunch period. — Daily News/Cory Smith

GREENVILLE — Greenville Public School’s new Food Service Director Ken Poor brings years of culinary knowledge to his position, including 20 years of teaching in the classroom.

Poor wants to make a connection with students and provide a welcoming feeling at the new high school dining facilities for everyone seeking a well-balanced meal.

“I taught culinary arts in Connecticut,” Poor said. “This is a whole new step for me, but I am settling in well.”

Poor was not always a teacher. Earlier in his career he was a wholesale contractor.

“It wasn’t long before I realized that type of work wasn’t for me,” he said.

Unhappy with his contracting and sales career, he decided to go back to college.

“I was a non-traditional student going back to college after having a career,” he said.

While attending college, he obtained a job working under a Johnson and Whales trained chef. With his training, Poor worked in many areas of the food service industry.

“I was a food service manager for a convention center,” he said. “I also have experience working in a Christian camp dishwashing and moving up from there. I new early on I had a passion for food.”

Poor moved to Greenville from Connecticut earlier this year after his wife had been in Michigan for a year.

“My wife, Becky, accepted the call as a pastor in Saranac,” he said. “It is what we do when we receive the calling, we follow the call.”

Greenville Public Schools Food Service Director Kenneth Poor brings 20 years of culinary experience to his new position. — Daily News/Lonnie Allen

In mid-July, he was hired as the new food services director in Greenville. He had originally applied for a teaching position.

“I was approached and asked if I would consider applying for the job I hold now,” he said. “I feel very blessed with what I inherited here in Greenville.”

Poor is excited and happy to be in Michigan and glad he is part of a school district that shows compassion for its students.

“The community has a great school district,” Poor said. “The administration cares for every student and is always seeking what is best for students.”

Poor considers the students when making important decisions about dining in any of the Greenville schools.

“What is best for the kids,” Poor said. “In all my years of teaching this is the one thing I always ask myself.”

It is the compassion and his experience that has supervisor Chief Operations Officer Korie Crawford pleased with Poor’s ideas and menu implementations.

“Ken has exceeded the expectations so far,” Crawford said. “He is working on familiarizing himself with our workers and students and has begun the process of instituting menu changes here in Greenville.”

With new federal guidelines in place for school meals, Crawford sees Poor as an asset to the program.

“Ken brings years of experience in culinary arts teaching and hospitality,” Crawford said. “We are excited that he doesn’t have any preconceived notions about what a school lunch has to look like. He can focus meeting the federal regulations and the goals of the district to serve healthful, high quality meals in a creative and kid-friendly way.”

Greenville Public Schools Superintendent Pete Haines is impressed with the ideas and experiences Poor has brought to the position since he started during the expansion and construction of new dining facilities at the high school.

“Mr. Poor and his entire staff have risen to many challenges in terms of delivering new and healthier dining options for students, while doing so in new facilities and at a dramatically greater volume,” Haines said.

When Poor started the high school, the dining facility was unfinished. He jumped in and faced the challenge of being ready to serve food when school started in the fall.

“The food service program at the high school was in the middle of a transformation when Ken began working here,” Crawford said. “He has taken the reins and continued that transformation which includes providing high-quality fresh foods, a positive atmosphere to dine in and state-of-the art service to deliver creative and healthy food options to students.”

It is this attitude of creativity and delicious food for students that keeps Poor looking forward to each new day at his job.

“My main goal is to make sure each student is happy to eat here,” Poor said. “I want the students to enjoy the food and enjoy the atmosphere while eating.”

Poor said none of this could have been done without the staff he has working for him.

“I have been blessed with great leadership at the middle and elementary schools,” Poor said. “I was so busy here during the first week we were unable to serve hot food at the high school. All my attention was directed here at the high school that it was a blessing to have the leadership I had in those areas.”

It is all about healthy choices and making sure at every school in the district can provide each student with a great meal.

“The goal that the district has for food and nutrition is to provide fresh, healthy meals to our students to support student learning and achievement,” Crawford said. “We want all of our cafeterias and serveries to be positive places where kids learn healthy eating habits and have an enjoyable dining experience. Mr. Poor’s leadership and the great employees in our Food and Nutrition Department together make this happen daily for our students.”

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