Jessica Emmett; Culinary Specialist; Cherokee County School District; Canton, Georgia
Nestled approximately 30 miles away from the bustling city of Atlanta lies the Cherokee Country
School District, home to a remarkable culinary specialist, Jessica Emmett. Her career within the
district is a testament to dedication, passion, and a profound love for both food and education.
Starting as a lunchroom monitor in 2015, Jessica steadily navigated her way up the ladder,
becoming an integral part of the school nutrition team. Her position, created in 2020, fuses her
culinary education and psychology degree, a unique blend that fuels her diverse role in the
Spanning across 40 schools and centers, serving over 42,000 students, Jessica has a multitude
of day-to-day responsibilities. Acting as a division facilitator, she supports eight schools, delves
into recipe testing, and operates as the farm-to-school liaison, partnering with educators to
create enlightening opportunities centered around food.
Grounded in a small-town Mississippi upbringing with limited exposure to various foods, her
roots have deeply influenced her approach. Jessica celebrates heritage through food and
embraces all the diverse cultures in the lunchroom. She strives to offer culinary experiences that
broaden horizons and transcend boundaries. She shares how some of her proudest moments
revolve around introducing global flavors, witnessing the evolution from limited menus to an
expansive array of culinary experiences.
One area where she takes exceptional pride is introducing students to ethnic meals, cultivating
an appreciation for diverse cuisines and where food truly comes from. Her dedication to this
undertaking stems from her innate passion for children, the unique makeup of the student
population, and her own culinary journey. She says, “We’re making connections through food,
and that’s what’s really important.”
Another aspect central to her mission of educating students through food is the farm-to-school
initiative that has been supporting local farmers for over a decade. Additionally, some schools
grow their own produce, and kids who participate get first dibs on the harvest through specially
prepared meals. Their purple potato crop was a particular hit!
Navigating challenges, such as shortages in certain products, she embraces a "speed scratch"
mentality, ensuring menus cater to different tastes while using available resources efficiently.
Garnering feedback through innovative methods like Google forms, she adapts and refines
offerings based on student preferences.
Her menu is also supported by various products from General Mills. She’s thankful for the
gluten-free cereal options and expresses how much the kids love the Pillsbury™ cinnamon rolls
Collaborating with diverse colleagues, each with their unique personality types, she describes
herself as the team’s cheerleader, rallying the group to conquer tasks collectively. Their
combined efforts yield a menu that includes successes like the chicken shawarma they rolled
out during Middle Eastern Heritage month.
From navigating the nuanced preferences of high schoolers to capturing the enthusiasm of
elementary students, she recognizes the importance of persistence and positivity in
encouraging healthy eating habits. When asked about advice for others in K-12 foodservice, she
says, “It often takes 13 tries — or more — for a child to like a food. Keep trying and offering new
In essence, Jessica is not just nourishing bodies but fostering a culture of culinary exploration,
expanding young minds one flavorful meal at a time. Her dedication to merging education and
delicious meals underscores the transformative power of food beyond mere sustenance.
You can update your privacy settings to enable this content. Please enable all cookies to use this feature.