Food services director ready to retire

CNJ Staff Photo: Andy DeLisle
Judy Abernathy worked as a teacher before becoming the food services director for Clovis Municipal Schools. She is retiring Monday.

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ Staff Writer

Judy Abernathy remembers when students bought paper tickets to eat school meals, calories in school meals had to be computed by hand, and family and consumer science was simply called home economics.

Now, she has a staff of 26, a budget of more than $3 million and more than 26 years of service in the Clovis Municipal Schools.

She will leave all that behind Monday when she retires after 19 years as the CMS food service director and more than seven years as a home economics teacher.
“It’s been interesting,” the soft-spoken Abernathy said.

“I will miss my wonderful staff and the children. … Everyone really.”

Those she has worked with over the last two decades will also remember her — for her passion, her innovation and her dedication, they said.

“She made food service fun and exciting. Her phrase — she always said this at board meetings — was, ‘Welcome to the wonderful world of food service,’” school board member Lora Harlan recalled warmly.

In her years of service, Abernathy fought to provide breakfast at each school in the district. When she began, only seven offered the morning meal. Now, it is provided at all 18 schools, she said.

“A hungry child cannot learn,” said Abernathy, her years as a teacher reflected in her tone.

The Clovis High graduate also introduced staff members to computer systems that radically altered the way the food service program operated, ending reams of paperwork, as well as the lunch ticket system.

Another of her legacies is homemade bread.

She provided whole wheat bread twice a year to school board members and community organizations, a tradition much appreciated.

“The first few times she gave us bread, I just said, ‘Thank you.’ But it got to where I would open the end of it and sample it and snack on it the entire meeting,” Harlan said.

“She assured us,” Harlan joked, “(that her successor) has already put it on his list of things to remember.”

Abernathy said she will spend more time with her family and at her ranch in Quay County upon her retirement.