A School Cafeteria Worker Had A Message For The Kids – And She Decided To Put It In Their Lunches

Stacey Truman has been employed at Kingston Elementary school in Virginia Beach, Virginia for almost a decade. And the cafeteria manager is doing her part to make a difference in the lives of the students. In fact, Truman has come up with a creative way to deliver a positive message to the children – and her actions have been noticed around the world.

Truman plays an important part in helping to make an impact on the pupils that attend her school. But her thinking about her own childhood doesn’t bring the cafeteria worker happy memories. Instead, she went through a difficult time when, at the age of nine, her parents decided to get a divorce.

The separation of the future cafeteria manager’s parents completely uprooted her life. Truman, both of her sisters and her mom had to move into her grandmother’s home. So when it came to starting a family of her own, she did not want her children to grow up with the same struggles that she faced.

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“It was really hard. I wanted to give my daughters a better life than what I lived through and experienced,” Truman told The Washington Post in November 2018. The mom-of-two is married to computer technician Zachery Truman. And the couple share daughters Mackenzie and Kayleigh, who were ten and seven respectively in November 2018.

Nine years ago, Truman started a job at Kingston Elementary. The school has over 500 students and approximately 19 pupils to every teacher. On its website, the educational institution describes itself as “fully accredited and a division leader in integrating technology and best instructional practices for student success.”

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But the journey to work isn’t an easy commute for Truman. In fact, the cafeteria worker lives in a completely different state. The Trumans actually reside in North Carolina, in a town called Moyock, close to the border with Virginia. So, every morning during the week, she has to leave the house at 4:45 a.m. to get to school on time.

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It takes Truman close to one hour to drive across state lines to Kingston Elementary each day. And she has to be there before anyone else. That’s because as well as working in the cafeteria, it’s her responsibility to unlock the doors to the school and switch on all the lights.

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After Truman has opened the school, she goes through her emails. And she is also tasked with preparing and serving breakfast and lunch options for the students and staff, along with the help of two co-workers. However, despite her busy workload, the cafeteria manager has added another job to her daily routine. And this one is purely for the good of the children.

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In fact, Truman used to have a second job in order to make ends meet. On top of working at the school, the mom also did waitressing shifts at night when her daughters were younger in order to provide her family with extra money. And this went on for around two years.

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But balancing two jobs – one in the day and one in the evening – wasn’t easy. It also meant that Truman didn’t get to spend much time with her daughters. “My girls sacrificed because I only saw them on the weekend, other than when I’d sneak in while they were sleeping to kiss them on the forehead,” she told The Washington Post. So she decided to do something about it.

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Truman wanted her daughters to know that even though she couldn’t be with them as often as she would like, she still cared about them. So, each night as she would pack their lunches for the next day, she would leave them a thoughtful note. But it didn’t come on a piece of paper.

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Instead, Truman left heartfelt messages on the pieces of fruit that she put in her children’s lunchboxes. “When I was getting their lunches ready the night before, I started writing little notes on their bananas to let them know I was thinking of them and wished I could be there,” she explained. And the unusual tradition stuck.

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Truman’s position at Kingston Elementary means that she has to leave the house before her daughters are awake each morning. So her husband is the one who is in charge of getting them ready for school. But the cafeteria manager has continued to write phrases on Mackenzie and Kayleigh’s bananas every day.

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Then, in the fall of 2018, Truman was hit with a wave of inspiration. She decided to bring her optimistic messages into the cafeteria. “I do it for my kids at home, so why not bring it here and do it for [the students]? Because they are like my kids,” she explained to Virginia’s W.T.K.R. News 3 in October 2018.

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Now, Truman sits down at her desk each morning before the students arrive and writes positive messages on around 60 bananas using a black pen. The phrases are typically inspirational ones. And although it takes the school employee 45 minutes to complete the task every day, it’s all worth it.

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That’s because as the students of Kingston Elementary make their way through the line while picking out their food at lunchtime, they are thrilled by what they have started calling “talking bananas.” Of the 540 pupils, usually just a tenth of them will opt for bananas. But far more read Truman’s touching words.

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“They’re reading [the messages] as they come through the line,” Truman said to W.T.K.R. News 3. “It may not be what they choose, you know, that just wasn’t the fruit they wanted for the day.” However, the students still see what she has done and appreciate it. In fact, the cafeteria manager revealed that they find it “pretty cool.”

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When it comes to the specific messages, though, Truman gets creative. And she puts a lot of thought into what goes onto her bananas every day. “Most of them I came up with myself because I was just thinking about what you would tell a kid or what you would want to hear yourself,” she revealed.

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As the children are walking down the lunch line, they will see the pile of bananas that Truman has carefully prepared with a variety of notes. And those who choose to have one of the pieces of fruit also get a kick out of selecting the message that resonates with them. “Writing on a banana is such a simple thing, but it has an impact,” Truman told The Washington Post.

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So what do some of the bananas say? Well, Truman uses her marker pen to inscribe both short expressions and longer quotes onto the fruit. “If you can dream it, you can achieve it,” is one phrase that the cafeteria manager likes. Another might say, “Not all those who wander are lost.”

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Among Truman’s best-loved phrases is, “Shoot for the moon – if you miss, you’ll end up with the stars.” But she favors shorter quotes, too. “Never give up,” “Be yourself,” and “Dream big” are just some of the things she’ll write on the fruit. The manager has also included bananas with the words “Laughter heals hurt,” and “You get what you give.”

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Mostly, Truman thinks of what to write on the bananas herself. But she admitted that sometimes, she will go on Google to look up suitable phrases. And the students have become so inspired by what the cafeteria manager is doing that some parents have also started trying out the trend.

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“Now, kids who bring lunches from home are coming in with talking bananas from their parents. I really love that,” Truman told The Washington Post. And she didn’t limit her creations to just bananas, either. Indeed, the cafeteria manager confessed that she was thinking about concocting some “emoji oranges,” and sure enough, she created them a few weeks later.

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Truman’s technique of leaving messages on bananas has been appreciated for multiple reasons. After all, her actions aren’t just helping the students to feel good about themselves. As Kingston Elementary school principal, Sharon Shewbridge, explained, she is also encouraging the kids to eat more fruit as part of their diet.

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“[Truman’s] helped the kids to make healthier choices,” Shewbridge told The Washington Post. “But it’s more than that. [She] genuinely cares and wants them to know they are loved.” And the principal added that this all came from the cafeteria manager herself. “What I especially appreciate is that she does this without being directed or asked.”

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Shewbridge decided that she wanted more people to know about Truman’s banana scribbles outside of the school. So, she began posting snapshots of the fruit messages on social media. And it didn’t take long for people to notice what the cafeteria worker was doing for the children – and want to spread that generosity.

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The principal shared snapshots of two trays of talking bananas on her Twitter page in October 2018. “Words of inspiration from our cafeteria manager for our students,” Shewbridge wrote alongside the photos. She added that they were doing “heart work” and pointed out that “relationships matter.” Hundreds of people liked the message – and it was also noticed by Dole, the fruit company.

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Dole is the biggest fruit and vegetable producer on the planet, supplying to 90 countries and working with 74,300 people. And when the company heard about what Truman was doing, it decided to get involved. That’s why, one day at the beginning of November 2018, it arranged for a special delivery.

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The school received a whopping 540 bananas, with Dole having chosen to supply a piece of fruit for each student. And that meant that Truman had to come up with ten times the usual amount of messages to put on them. But fortunately, she didn’t have to do it all alone.

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Truman got help from friends as well as members of the parent-teacher association, or P.T.A., who all wrote their own talking bananas. The cafeteria manager explained, “Otherwise, I’d have still been writing when school let out.” And she also used some of the fruit to create a dolphin design that the students enjoyed.

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Once again, Truman showed her creative flair by turning the ends of the bananas into dolphin mouths. She drew on eyes with marker pens and put grapes or slices of strawberry in their mouths and around them. “Seriously, look at how cute this fruit is,” Shewbridge wrote on Twitter alongside an image of the display.

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Shewbridge then added, “How could you not want to take one? Thank you, Mrs. Truman!” As the principal continued to spread the cafeteria manager’s powerful actions, what she was doing was noticed more and more. And both local and national news outlets ran stories about her idea to write messages on bananas for the children at her school.

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But it was in February 2019 that Truman’s idea gained more attention than she probably could have ever predicted. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were touring the English city of Bristol when they visited the One25 charity. And it was there that the Duchess of Sussex confessed that she was inspired by what the cafeteria manager in Virginia was doing.

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One25 is an organization that provides support to female sex workers on the streets and helps get them out of their situation. It also aids women struggling with addiction and similar problems. And the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were helping to put together packages of food for the city’s sex workers.

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Then, out of the blue, Meghan asked for a marker and revealed that she had “an idea.” The Duchess had seen Truman’s positive messages for children in the school cafeteria and she wanted to recreate that. So, she began writing her own phrases on the bananas that were part of the food parcels.

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“I’m in charge of the banana messaging,” Meghan said. She then penned notes such as “You are brave,” “You are special” and “You are strong” on the pieces of fruit. The bananas, along with other items of food and drink, were then packed up and delivered to at-risk women through the Yellow Van program, one of the charity’s services.

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An Instagram post by Kensington Palace described Meghan’s actions as “a simple gesture and a way to incorporate positivity and kindness for those needing a self esteem boost.” The post continued, “H.R.H. learned of this idea from an act of kindness by a school cafeteria worker in the U.S. who wrote messages for children.” After seeing what Truman did, the Duchess “wanted to do the same for others in need.”

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Meghan’s actions divided sex workers, however. One called it “offensive” and suggested to The Sun that she “should be doing more” to help vulnerable women. But another former sex worker said, “It is amazing that [the Duke and Duchess] chose to come here. It is heartwarming and makes you think that these women are not forgotten.”

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With Meghan being inspired by Truman’s way of boosting positivity, the talking bananas have now reached people around the world. But, for the cafeteria manager, it was only ever about doing her part for the children. “I want them to succeed in life and have an awesome day at school,” she told The Washington Post.

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And even though it takes time and effort to prepare the pieces of fruit each morning, it’s all worth it for Truman. “To see the kids’ faces light up when they choose their bananas is my reward,” she added. “Whenever I can put a smile on all of those little faces, I’ve done my job.”

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