Perrysburg schools food service director retires

PERRYSBURG — Lila Szozda is retiring after 30 years as Perrysburg Schools Child Nutrition Services director.

“What she has done has made an incredible difference,” Superintendent Tom Hosler said. “With all that we do here in the district, I know, taking care of our students, making sure they have great meals, nutritional meals, has been something that she has done very, very well. We wish her all the best with her retirement.”

Immediately prior to the school board meeting last week, the district held a public reception honoring Szozda at the Commodore Building.

Szozda said that it has been a great career — from dishwasher to director.

“It was not always easy, but we do always try to give some options … with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables,” Szozda said. “Working for Perrysburg Schools and serving the students, parents, community and staff, I can say, it has been a wonderful life.”

Members of the public joined board members, faculty, staff and administrators to congratulate and thank Szozda for her service to the district and the students. The event was followed by recognition during the board meeting.

“She’s been a very steady hand in what we do. For the students that are here, when you think about your food service experience, I think it’s unique to Perrysburg that kids actually like to buy food in the cafeteria,” Hosler said. “Lila has been working very diligently, not only in making sure our students are being served a great quality of food, but also done so in a way that makes the students view the food service as much, much more than a place to get food, but the connections and relationships that she has really fostered and have permeated the entire department.”

He also praised her for her grit and work ethic, adding that Szozda is customer driven.

Prior to working for the district, she ran her parent’s restaurant.

She began at the district as a dishwasher, and worked her way up through several positions at several different buildings, eventually becoming food service director in 2002.

“The ability to work your way through so many different positions … you have an appreciation for all the little things that have to happen for something to be successful in the way that our food service program has been successful,” Hosler said. “I think it’s the little things that make such a big, big difference for us. It’s through that lens of valuing every single position that goes into food service and I think she’s done a great job of that.”

Hosler also stressed that the position is more than just the quality and delivery of food that the district valued, but also for her resiliency, the fiscal skills and responsibility Szozda exhibited in handling the unique requirements of the job.

Calling the department “a shining star for us and it’s been something that’s been a point of pride,” he informed the packed school board meeting that in Ohio, public schools food service is supposed to function by itself, using its own revenue.

“In the 16 years I’ve been here, that’s exactly what our food service has done. It’s always been run with a positive balance,” Hosler said.

He noted that the times were not always easy, but Szozda’s patience, planning and leadership made it work.

There were times when the power went out while making food, resulting in the district ordering pizza from Marco’s. Then there was not having any water because of the 2014 harmful algae bloom and the many COVID-related issues.

He compared it to running a business, like the restaurant that she used to run, with the salaries, food and equipment paid for by the revenue generated.