Warning! Editing this pageset section will affect all pages on your website.

Chhovy Chhit

Lunch Hero Chhovy Chhit

When students at Mira Mesa High School encounter Senior Cook Chhovy Chhit on their busy lunch break, they’re guaranteed to be greeted by her renowned warmth and vivacious personality.

It’s Chhovy’s passion for her job that has forged her trajectory in the San Diego Unified School District’s Food and Nutrition Department over the last 18 years, seeing her advance from volunteer to Senior Cook.

As her supervisor, David Beane explains: "Chhovy always wants to do what's best for the kids and truly wants them to enjoy the food that they're eating. She has been assisting as a TOC Supervisor in the past and deserves to be recognized for her efforts that she brings every day to work. She is a leader that involves everyone on the floor to be working as a team.”

But few of those students, their parents, and even other school staff, would probably know that behind Chhovy’s smile lies a story worthy of a movie script.

Born in Cambodia in 1970 to an affluent family, Chhovy’s life dramatically changed when the Khmer Rouge took power, which resulted in what became known as the Cambodian Genocide.

Starting a Life in France 

Chhovy was just five years old. “I remember our home,” she says, sadly. “But they chased us away from our house, and my family lost everything.” The family eventually fled to Thailand, where they lived until she was 9, and then life took another turn. “Before the war, my parents had sent my older brother to study engineering in France,” she explains, “and he was able to sponsor us to move to Paris.”

Lunch Hero Chhovy ChhitChhovy’s family spoke no French but they settled in Paris, where they remain today. Chhovy has fond memories of working on the Lancôme cosmetics counter at the legendary Parisian department store Printemps, where she loved interacting with customers and got a thrill from selling the products.
When she was 20, her parents planned an arranged marriage for her, as was Cambodian custom. But Chhovy’s now husband of 31 years, John, had other plans.
Her brother’s best friend at the time, John, went to Chhovy’s father and asked to marry her. “We had known each other for so long, and once you’re in love nothing else matters,” Chhovy recalls, laughing.
The newlyweds moved to America when Chhovy was 22, and ended up in San Diego as John pursued a career in the Navy. They had two sons, William, now 25, and Edward, now 22.


Building a Career in School Nutrition 

Chhovy began volunteering in William’s kindergarten classroom at Hage Elementary School and would stay during lunchtime to help out. She loved every minute and would even load the food truck for field trips.
To her astonishment and delight, at Christmas time the school secretary gave her an envelope containing $300 cash that teachers had collected to thank her for all her help.
Chhovy spent the next two years working at Mira Mesa High School selling snacks and lunch on carts around campus. “It took me back to Lancôme,” she says. “I didn’t realize I missed it. I was the best seller and I was dancing at my cart. I sold $200-300 of food in 30 minutes!”

She spent the next ten years at Ericson Elementary as Senior Food Service Site Leader before returning to Mira Mesa High, where she eventually became the Senior Cook. Her ambition is to be a Supervisor, a role she’s already substituted in.

Chhovy credits her mom for her love of cooking. “We had a big family. We never went out but cooked for every occasion. I was always my mom’s assistant,” she remembers. “I love to cook. I love to eat. Food makes people happy.”


Lunch Hero Chhovy Chhit

Today, Chhovy leads a team of 13 at Mira Mesa High and supervises seven food carts.

She loves interacting with students and encouraging them to try the new rotating Manager Specials. “We have a menu so kids know what’s coming,” she explains. “I tell them ‘I tried it, the Supervisor and Area Manager tried it’. And I tell my team, ‘Let me know what kids feel about it, tell them I love to hear from them’.”
A good leader, says Chhovy, “can predict a problem. You need to be positive and lead by example. Show and explain how you solve the problem. It’s important to be patient with your team, and always compliment them.”
Reflecting back on her own childhood, Chhovy remembers receiving free school lunches provided by the French government for low-income families, and she speaks warmly of California doing the same. “When I was at Ericson Elementary, I felt it. I could relate.”
It’s what drives her personal mission to make sure every child has enough food to grow and thrive.
“I make sure every lunch has the same amount, there’s no one that has less,” she says. “I’m so passionate about my job and feeding children. Kids need nutrition to grow their brain. Sometimes I feel like their mom. They say, ‘Are you my mom?’ and I say, ‘Well, I have to be sometimes if you guys don’t eat!’”