Director of Nutrition Services & Warehousing at Natomas Unified School District
Earlier this year, Dr. Richard Pan launched an ambitious project of expanding the Summer Food Service Program, with the goal of feeding one million meals to children in the Sacramento area this summer, when children don't have access to school lunches. Over the last several months, the large coalition of organizations has identified locations where children will be during the summer months for easy delivery of meals. Vince Caguin has been an instrumental part of the coalition that is making this effort possible.
Tell us a little about yourself
I am the Director of Nutrition Services & Warehousing at Natomas Unified School District where I oversee the production and service of 10,000 meals a day during the school year. I am a former Academic Department Chair at Le Cordon Bleu Los Angeles where I developed culinary academic curriculum. I serve as an instructor, proctor, and item writer for the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation and a member of the Sacramento Summer Meals Collaborative. I live in Elk Grove with my wife and son. Together we enjoy gardening, cooking, and exploring the community
How are you making a difference in your community? What issues are you most passionate about?
During the summer months when schools are on break, hunger does not end for many of the students who rely on school meals. I am passionate about serving free summer meals throughout the greater Sacramento Area which are made available through the Seamless Summer Feeding Program by the United States Department of Agriculture. It not only provides students with access to nutritious meals but provides them an incentive to attend summer school and visit parks, libraries, and community centers where the meals are served.
What inspires your community efforts? Why is the work important to you?
In education, we are in the business of teaching kids about things that they do not love yet. This is true for fruits and vegetables as it is for math and science. Inspiring kids to eat fruits and vegetables is easier during the summer season. When a kid falls in love with the taste of fresh grilled corn, it opens up a whole new world of questions. Where did it come from? Who grew it? What are the different varieties?
Summer feeding events such as the Picnic at the Capitol are a great way to bring children and youth out from the community to meet the people who grew, harvested, and cook the food they are enjoying.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
I am proud of the dynamic team that I work with. I am surrounded by gifted people that share the same vision and mission to serve students. The Natomas USD Nutrition Service team is a diverse group of individuals with a wide range of skill sets. I simply provide the platform and draw out and channel the talents within them. As a result, the students benefit from the creative ideas, menus, and events we produce.
I not only want them to do well, I want them to do better than me. Some of my staff are in school to further their knowledge and career. I have seen them grow over the years working for the department. Some have surpassed me in their skill set of cooking and menu writing. I encourage this type of growth.
What have you struggled most with in your life?
I did not do well in school. Some of my colleagues do not believe it because I have an MBA. I found out later in life that I was a very tactile type learner. I learn better by doing things. I could remember being in middle school and being engaged in Home Economics class. Cooking drew me in and opened up a whole new world of science and math through food.
What kind of lessons do you think are important to instill in future generations?
Food has the ability to nourish the mind, body, and soul. I encourage students to learn how to cook and explore different cuisines. It is a useful tool to show hospitality and learn about farming and different cultures. In a city as diverse as Sacramento, we have access to this in our own backyard.
If there is one problem in our community that you wish you could fix, what would it be?
There is a bounty of farmers, culinarians, food producers, nutritionists and educators in our community. We are now just getting to the point where we connect with each other. Once we strengthen our network, we will be able to cultivate great collaborative events.
How do you decompress?
I find driving to be very helpful. It is one of the few moments where I get to be alone with my thoughts. It is a useful time to think, pray, and reflect on the day. Moments of clarity often happen in the car.
My commute from work to home is very useful. It allows me to decompress from the work day so I can spend time with my family, which grounds me.