Retired NFL Lineman Jared Veldheer Turns To Cooking At His Kids’ School Cafeteria

The former offensive tackle Jared Veldheer is proud to be a cook at his children’s school cafeteria.

Veldheer currently serves as the kitchen director at St. Paul the Apostle School in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he manages lunch for 300 kids, every day.

“I mean, it seems, seems a lot more mundane, but trust me, if one of those things falls out of step, then your whole operation is is in jeopardy, and then the quarterback gets sacked,” Veldheer told TODAY’s Harry Smith.

As the Veldheer kitchen director, he orders supplies, prepares meals and serves the hundreds of children who attend the school. He said that they aren’t as fearsome as some of the football stars he’s faced down, but their feedback can still be pretty tough.

“They’re very honest, I’ll say that,” he said. “It’s helpful … because they’re happy to tell you if they like it, but they’re also happy to tell you, ‘No, that’s disgusting.'”

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“We started getting more (parent) volunteers in the lunchroom because our volunteers get to eat the food,” school principal Michelle Morrow told Smith. “And we constantly get (asked), ‘Are you going to offer takeout?'”

“There’s so much around culture, globally, centered around food, getting together having a meal, having conversation,” he said. “To me, it’s not only like nourishing to my body, but to my soul.”

In addition, his menus are inspired by his experience as a pre-med student in college, where he learned about nutrition, and his time as a professional athlete.

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“I realized there’s foods that I need to incorporate more to have longevity on the field to have my body feel good from week to week,” Veldheer said. “When you’re basically getting in a car wreck each Sunday, you have to be really smart and calculated about it and teach yourself to like new things and think outside of the box.”

Veldheer says that being in the kitchen is his new calling. He recalls that when he was in the NFL, he would often ponder what he would do after retiring.

“(Thinking) ‘How do you optimize your life (and) get the most out of the, you know, the blessing that we’ve been given on this earth?’ and taking that curiosity for purpose has led me down some different roads in life,” he said.

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