Harms honored with national foodservice ‘Spotlight Award’

In June, Tammy Harms of Monticello received a national award for her dedication as a foodservice professional. She was nominated by her former employer, Linn Manor. For about a year now, Harms has worked at Aquin School in Cascade. Pictured are Natalie Johnston, Sue Burger, Harms, and Jane Donovan. (Photo submitted)
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     Tammy Harms of Monticello has been recognized at the national level with the “Spotlight Award” from the ANFP (Association of Nutrition and Foodservice Professionals).

   Just under a year ago, Harms started working at Aquin Catholic School in Cascade. She is the food service director there, planning, preparing, and serving breakfast and lunch to 218 students in PreK-8.

   Harms was recognized for the work, effort, and dedication she applied to her previous job at Linn Manor Care Center in Marion as the dietary supervisor.

   Harms worked for Linn Manor for eight years. During that time, she experienced both the August 2020 derecho that his Linn County, as well as the COVID pandemic.

   In June, Harms traveled to Arizona to personally receive the award. The Spotlight Award is only given to CDMs (certified dietary managers) and CFPPs (certified food protection professionals).

   One of the requirements to receiving the Spotlight Award is to have previously been named CDM/CFPP of the Year. In 2019, Harms was named CDM of the Year in the State of Iowa.

   A former supervisor of Harms at Linn Manor nominated her for the national honor.

   “It’s exciting to win a national award and I am honored for that,” Harms said. “But I don’t do it for that. I like to be of help in difficult situations.”

   COVID took its toll on care centers and nursing homes in early 2020.

   “We lost seven (residents) in a week,” recalled Harms of the pandemic.

   Despite working in the kitchen, Harms was required to wear full PPE (personal protective equipment) all day while on the job.

   Linn Manor also lost employees due to COVID because many walked off the job.

   “It was hard to get help,” said Harms.

   When the residents could no longer eat as a group, meals were personally delivered to each of their rooms.

   In August 2020, the derecho hit. Linn Manor lost two wings to the storm and residents had to be sent to other care faciltiie4s throughout the area.

   “I remember when the care center called me telling me we had to evacuate people,” recalled Harms.

   She came to work immediately and started cleaning up the kitchen following the storm and then helping gather residents’ belongings as they were being moved out.

   “It took a lot of us to do it,” he said.

   Knowing they had residents at various locations, for a week or more, Harms prepared three meals a day outside Linn Manor on a grill and delivered each and every meal to her residents no matter where they were located.

   “We had no gas so I had to cook on a grill,” he said. “We didn’t have the ability to cook inside. So then we ran around and made sure people got the food they needed.”

   A week following the derecho, Linn Manor was able to open one of the damaged wings. Half of the displaced residents returned. Nine months later, reconstruction was complete on the facility.

   Despite the derecho completely missing Monticello that day, Harms and a friend of hers experienced the storm first-hand in Mount Vernon as Harms was on her way to Mercy Hospital to have surgery.

   “We sat in my car the day of the derecho,” she said, watching trees and powerlines being ripped out of the ground and roofs being torn off buildings.

   Following both major events, Harms led an online webinar with Martin Bros. Distributing about managing a kitchen and food service at a care center during a pandemic. Harms said because the administrator at Linn Manor was so new at the time, she was left to “take charge” throughout COVID.

   “You do it because it’s your job and you just do it,” she said of the time and effort she put in, going above and beyond her job duties. “You jump in and get it done.”

   Working at Aquin, Harms thoroughly enjoys her job, serving the students.

   “The kids are always happy; it’s a happy environment,” she said.

   Harms said working in healthcare throughout 2020-plus was a crazy time.

   Her role at Aquin involves planning the menus, cooking, hiring, and lots of government paperwork.

   “There’s a lot of paperwork,” Harms noted.

   Her kitchen staff includes herself and two other employees, plus three volunteers.

   Harms has worked in the food service industry since the age of 13, waiting tables at the truck stop (Darrell’s). She also worked at Family Foods in Monticello.

   “I like to cook,” she said. “I like to make sure people get fed.”


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