One of Joyce Jerman’s joys in her 21-year career as Mrs. Food was helping kids make the connection from the farm to their food.
“I put a lot of science in my teaching,” she said. “My love for agriculture came into that.”
Jerman retires from the University of Missouri Extension Department on February 26, having served area schools in Audrain and Pike Counties as part of MU Extension’s Food Nutrition Department.
“She’s a sweet, sweet lady, and everybody in town loves her,” Kathy Allen, Van-Far Elementary School nurse, said.
A farmer of 43 years and counting with her husband, Jim, Jerman plans to enjoy life, gardening, and the pool — but, she still plans on continuing work at local schools as a volunteer.
Jerman started work with MU Extension in 1992 as a farm business associate. Within the position, she served as an accountant for farmers “before farmers had their own computers.”
After a six-year stint in farm business, Jerman applied for a spot with the then-new Food Nutrition Program.
“I applied for that and got it,” Jerman said. “I worked in all of the schools in Audrain County and some in Pike. That program has done nothing but grow and grow.”
Jerman taught food nutrition in area schools as well as within the Missouri Department of Corrections.
“It’s a very worth while program,” she said, referring to helping the incarcerated. “I learned as much as they did, probably. I felt there was a big need for it and there still is a big need for the program.”
With federal aid cut to those serving time, Jerman’s focus went toward the schools through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
“That is kind of what we do is go into the schools and educate the students,” Jerman said.
Aside from her enjoyment of seeing the light bulb come on when a student makes the connection between agriculture and their own food, she added seeing past students recount her teachings some 15 years later is also a blessing, as well as more recent students peering into her grocery cart in search of unhealthy items.
“That’s always a challenge,” Jerman said. “I’ve never hid anything, but I’ve been tempted.”
She said another highlight of her career was helping prisoners learn to manage food budgets and cook healthy meals for their families once they return to society.
Jerman is a past member of the Vandalia Area Fair Association, Vandalia’s Alethea, and the University of Missouri’s Agricultural Leader’s of Tomorrow.
Jerman and her husband have farmed and operated a grain bin outside of Vandalia for more than four decades.
Their daughters are Liz Rawlings and Lesley Brewster. Liz Rawlings is married to Mike Rawlings, a track coach and teacher.
Liz Rawlings is a reading specialist in the Waynesville school system. She has two daughters, Taylor and Jenna.
Jerman’s youngest daughter, Lesley, works at the Missouri Veteran’s Home in Mexico, Mo. She has one daughter, Harley.