Main Menu

Ever Brighter: Staff member Keyana Griffin serves up smiles everyday

Ever Brighter: Staff member Keyana Griffin serves up smiles everyday

I just don’t wanna be another lunch lady, I want to be known by my name and efforts. 

Keyana Griffin, Nutrition Services Manager still smiles, beaming bright after a long day of work, especially as one of her older students passes by the lunchroom calling her name with a big smile on their face. 

“Students pass by all the time to just stop in to say hello, or if it’s their birthday, they know I’ll give them a treat to celebrate,” Keyana explained. 

The students at Wilshire Park Elementary know “Ms. K” as more than a person that serves up breakfast or lunch – she’s become a caring adult and leader in their school. 

Keyana Griffin Nutrition Services Manager 2

“I love getting to know their names and asking them about their day,” Keyana said. “I wanna find out what they did or didn’t like about the food because their opinion matters to me.”

Growing up, Keyana didn’t always feel like she belonged. It was a hard transition, going from growing up in Milwaukee and then moving to Minneapolis to care for her mother. When her mother died, Keyana chose to honor her legacy through food, which brought together a strong community of supporters. 

It’s through food that she feels right at home – she can care for herself and others while bringing together the people most close to her. This idea then exploded to new heights. 

Through her catering business, Lady Kay’s, Keyana’s passion to prepare and serve food for others became legitimate and she celebrated her mom through this passion. Even as the COVID-19 pandemic swept through the nation, Keyana didn’t stop. She looked to other avenues to support her business, like selling food outside of her home. 

“I would have a line of 100 people coming to my house every day to eat tacos, cookies, ice cream cups and whatever else I had cooking!” 

Keyana’s business has taken to the sidelines as she now manages the Wilshire Park Elementary kitchen, but the reassurance that she’s on the right path shows up in her students and staff every day. 

“I finally realize that I belong here,” Keyana said. “At first it was difficult to find my place. It made me question my abilities, but the constant reminders from students is so reassuring. The comments from them makes me realize I’m on the right path. Students know my name now, I have my own identity now and they see me and acknowledge me as me.”

“We are incredibly fortunate that Keyana chooses to share her joy, enthusiasm for children and talents in the kitchen at Wilshire Park,” Wilshire Park Elementary Principal Maria Roberts said. “When she enters the cafeteria, students' faces light up as they know she cares about every single one of them. She embodies our commitment to affirming the innate worth of every student and she's been an amazing addition to our staff.”

Keyana takes all students as they come, especially the littlest ones. During the pandemic, to increase time for learning, the kindergarten team chose to reduce transitions for their students by having them eat lunch in the classroom. This school year, to help kindergarteners transition into their school day, Keyana developed a breakfast cart in the hallway. Once they hang up coats and backpacks, kindergarteners can step outside their classroom to pick up breakfast to eat at their desk. Keyana welcomed all students in grades K-5 back into the cafeteria – “If we can teach anybody, we can teach our youngest ones.”

Keyana is committed to changing student outcomes through the kitchen by creating positive feelings around school meals. By giving students quality, diverse food they may never have been able to experience, Keyana is making sure each student feels they belong through the choices of food available. One day there’s butter chicken, the next day there may be tacos, and on Minnesota Thursdays, where the entire meal is locally sourced, it could be chicken yassa, beef sambusas, pork carnitas, teriyaki tofu, Swedish mega meatball, bison nachos, turkey banh mi, jerk chicken, or turkey biryani. Food Services wants all students to feel represented in our menus.

Parents and guardians are also being retaught how school lunches look and taste. The food service team has an active social media presence where staff show off the meals they’re making for the day. “The more parents get to see what we do, what we serve, it helps them gain insight. Our team brings top tier quality and experience to the cafeteria.”

And their reward for this good work? The Golden Tray Award. Maria Amerman, Nutrition Services Coordinator for Roseville Area Schools, runs the program and randomizes the monthly drawing based on photo submissions of trays. Each photo is a chance to enter and Keyana, ever proud of the amazing food the Wilshire Park kitchen team prepares and serves to kids, frequently sends in pictures of beautiful looking food. The Wilshire Park team was the February recipients of the Golden Tray Award and will get a special celebration to honor their hard work–and Keyana’s amazing food photography!

“We stand as a team. I’m the cheerleader by spreading the word about Johnny Pops for birthdays. But we all want to have a relationship with our students. We’re diverse, happy and we serve good food!”

Keyana Griffin and the entire Wilshire Park Elementary Nutrition Services team have truly exceeded our expectations with preparing and serving breakfast and lunch for over 700 Wilshire students. They each provide so much joy to the community. Keyana uses her passion of cooking and serving to nourish young minds, making a difference in the lives of each student. Thank you for being Ever Brighter and Nurturing the Brilliance of Each Student!

Wilshire Park Nutrition Services team
  • Ever Brighter