From a high-paying career as an NFL player to head at a Catholic school


After a successful career in the NFL, which included playing for the Green Bay Packers, Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders, Jared Veldheer, once one of the NFL’s ‘most indispensable players’ according to a ranking of the Washington Post, was not going to retire sitting down.

Instead, when he noticed that his children’s school, St. Paul the Apostle Catholic School, desperately needed someone to oversee and serve lunch to their 260 students – after the former headmaster had resigned with only two weeks before school started — he decided to try out for this very demanding role.

However, despite such a drastic career change, there was something her old job could bring to the kitchen, as The Washington Post reported:

“I had eaten meticulously for over a decade and thought, ‘There is value in being able to cook and provide the kids with a good, nutritious lunch.'”

So Veldheer went to his children’s school armed with all his healthy eating know-how and changed the menu significantly. Gone are the typical pizzas, nuggets and fries, and an assortment of nutritious entrees, including mashed cauliflower and smoked carnitas.

A grateful crowd

Surprisingly perhaps, the kids were thrilled with the changes to the new SPA 68 Cafe – the number on Veldheer’s shirt. The nutritious $3.50 meals have been a hit with children and staff alike, with some kids turning down their favorite meals in favor of the former footballer’s healthier options.

And as school principal Michelle Morrow shared, “Everything he cooks is delicious and loved by kids and adults alike. For him, it’s not just about cooking, it’s about making sure the foods and nutrients students eat are the best for them in the classroom.

A mother-of-two, Courtney McGivney, reported her two children said they would ‘only eat Mr Veldheer’s chimichurri steak’ when offered their usual steak in a restaurant.

And it’s no surprise: Veldheer seems to put as much passion into his meals as he did into his football matches. He even dressed in lederhosen to encourage the kids to try his recipe for German sausage and sauerkraut – a bit of a challenge for a 6’8″ man weighing 265 pounds!

He certainly didn’t take the $15 an hour job for the money – considering the millions his previous career had earned him. It was more about being open to a new experience while still being able to lend a hand.

For Veldheer, its customers were not an easy crowd at first. “It took time to gain the trust of the children. Kindergarteners are my harshest critics. But he certainly makes the effort to offer appealing dishes and listen to his detractors without taking offense.

Luckily, he can also count on his own children – Eva, 6, and Edwin, 4 – to help with feedback on what works and what doesn’t.

In what is such a usual career change, it’s nice to see how Veldheer continues to inspire others off the pitch with his dedicated work to keep kids healthy and happy.


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