Stacy Lee’s compassion shows in all that she has accomplished — she is the Food Service Manager with the Bureau of Indian Education at Cheyenne-Eagle Butte School in Eagle Butte. Lee has been working in this position for 15 years, and has over 20 total years with the BIE. She also worked with other schools including Takini and Dupree before coming to Eagle Butte.
“What brought me into this line of work was my mother because she worked at the hospital as a Dietary Manager. It was at that time I volunteered 88 hours of service. My mom was a huge inspiration for me,” said Lee.
Early in her career, Lee started taking classes and trainings in areas necessary to get certified to help reach her goals of managing a school kitchen and cooking for students. Her certifications include contract officer, nutrition, operation, administration, communication in marketing, procurement and grant writing.
Implementing her knowledge, she established the fresh fruit and vegetable grant for Tiospaye Topa and Cheyenne Eagle Butte Schools, which provides the students with their after-school snacks.
“Every day before the kids go home, they get a piece of fresh fruit or vegetable with a low-fat dip. The grants go every year, and you complete the grant application and report what you have done with it the previous year. We qualify for the grant every year,” she said.
This year is the first year Lee started the supper program which provides supper meals for 100-150 students every weekday. Another program Stacy implemented is the summer food program.
“As soon as school ends, we start the summer food program and we do that until a week before school starts. Any child can eat during the summer from any community, any state. They can eat in this kitchen for free. That is how the supper program is run as well,” said Lee.
Throughout the years, some of the accomplishments and awards her program received include the HealthierUS School Challenge Award, which was the first time a Native reservation school received national honors.
“The award was given to us about seven years ago when it first came out. We received the bronze award and that was really something to be proud of. We had visitors from Washington, the State of South Dakota, they took pictures and they also interviewed us,” said Lee.
That same year, Lee’s program received national recognition from USDA and were featured in a short documentary, which can be viewed on YouTube.
Lee credits her staff for all their hard work and dedication to help make the program a success. Under her guidance, there are four cooks: Wally Ducheneaux, Leland LeBeau, Sabrina Hannaweeke and Trina Lends His Horse, and helpers: Myrna LeCompte, Keri Lawrence, Yvette Inukihaangana, Keri Lawrence, Nathan Houston, Tyler Kennedy and Myrna LeCompte
The staff prepare and cook meals for all Eagle Butte schools at their central kitchen, after which the meals are transported to other school kitchens.
Their typical work day starts at 5:00 a.m. when they check coolers and other equipment, ensuring proper food preservation before they begin cooking the morning menu. Doors open at 7:00 a.m. for breakfast.
“We cook about two hundred and forty pounds of meat for lunch in big steam kettles. We also do all the cooking for the upper elementary– they may have to warm-up fries, veggies…but all the main cooking is done here. We prepare about 700 meals for breakfast, 1,200 meals for lunch, plus cook for the staff who purchase tickets. It’s about 1,400 meals a day that we prepare. The staff is busy once they get here. Nobody is sitting around,” she said.
Lee goes above and beyond to make sure all students feel welcomed and included. For instance, Lee’s staff help students celebrate birthdays and accommodate students who have food allergies by giving them other options to choose from.
“We do have students who have special diets. I and two of my cooks are certified in that and we make sure the students get what they need for their special diet,” she said.
Another important aspect of her job is to help the students who stay at the dorm feel like they are family and are not alone. For the holidays, Lee and her staff make candy bags and one homemade item to send home with the students.
“We do a lot of special projects with the dorm students — I do cookie decorating for Christmas and make cookies for the students to take home. It’s their home away from home so we need to do as much as we can for them.” she said.
Lee credits various partnerships for the success the success of her program, including the CRST Title 1 Program.
“We’re a combined school and work with three entities — BIE, the district school and the Tribe. Title 1 has been very helpful. For example, the backpack program- Chip Bird Necklace will help us with funds for these extra programs we try to provide for the students. I really can’t say enough about the Title 1 Program as they have done a lot, not only with our program, but also with the community,” said Lee.
Lee’s advice for all who work in the field is to “work hard and remember to keep your mind set that it’s all about the kids. You have to have the heart to do it. Remember the children/students always come first. You really have to have a caring heart for the children.”
No matter how many different meals and recipes Lee may prepare, the most important ingredient is compassion. Enjoy this recipe, which Lee says was her mom’s favorite:
Stacy Lee’s Apple Pie Fill and Crust Recipe
Prep time: 25 minutes
Bake at 375 for 1 hour
Apple Pie Filling Ingredients:
6 Granny Smith Apples, peeled and sliced
½ cup white sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
1 Tablespoon flour
¼ stick butter
Mix all ingredients together in large mixing bowl, set aside.
2 cups of flour
Pinch of salt
1 cup buttered-flavored Crisco
¼ cup ice water
Makes two pieces of dough
Mix flour and salt together, work in Crisco until mixture is crumbly. Slowly add water. If the dough is too sticky, add a more flour. Separate dough into 2 equal pieces. Roll out dough onto floured surface, then place in a 9-inch pie shell and add filling. Roll out second crust and place on top of filling. Flute edges, cut small slits on top, then bake.