PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Friday marked School Lunch Hero Day, and cafeterias across South Florida were packed with smiles as students showed their appreciation to those who serve them lunch each day.
It was a role reversal Friday at Starlight Cove Elementary School, west of Lantana.
The lunch ladies had a chance to get off their feet and enjoy a gourmet meal of their own.
But then they took a walk down memory lane remembering one of their colleagues who served right alongside them for 20 years.
Pascal Georget and Andy Diep are used to serving up dishes. They’re the top chefs at Seminole Reef Grill and paid it forward Friday, treating the lunch ladies at Starlight Cove Elementary School to an exquisite gourmet meal.
But on this day, the lunch ladies were greeted by a familiar guest. Julie Khanna and her daughter joined in, expressing their gratitude from decades ago.
"Just to be able to serve them the way they served others, it feels really good. They deserve so much more recognition than they get," Khanna said.
The Khanna family's ties to Starlight Cove run deep. Their mother, Charlene, served in the Starlight Cove cafeteria for 20 years.
Charlene’s love for children extended well beyond the lunch line.
"My mom was able to tell when a student changed patterns," Khanna said. "If they were eating different and that’s just a point of view that most people don’t have, and she was able to see if something was off at home."
But one day in the lunch line, Charlene was caught off guard.
"My mom said, I have this funny little feeling in my leg," Khanna said. "Well it was that night when we learned she only had a few weeks to live. It was stage four cancer. Her sisters from the cafeteria, they were in our home when she was dying. They were home with us for hospice."
It’s been eight years since Charlene passed away. This Mother’s Day weekend, the Khannas are shedding light on her legacy, honoring the lunch ladies who still serve today.
"All of them are beautiful people. It’s more than serving," Khanna said. "It’s about being with the kids caring for the kids. It’s not just about the job description."
A life dedicated to the children of Starlight Cove.