Robert Buchanan took over as Page Unified School District’s director of food and nutrition in mid-July.
Buchanan moved to Page from San Jose, California, where he was the assistant director of dining services for San Jose State University. Buchanan moved to Page because it offered him the opportunity to advance into a director role.
Buchanan admits he had his doubts when it came to moving to a small town such as Page. Buchanan spent the first 34 years of his life living in Chicago, and has most recently lived in the Bay Area. He’s used to large crowds, tall buildings, cityscapes and the generous assortment of amenities that can only be found in a big city.
But the more he looked into Page, its surrounding area and the new job opportunity, the more he was convinced to make the leap.
“Being a director was really appealing to me,” he said.
Outside of work, Buchanan enjoys photography, hiking, camping and writing poetry. Page and the surrounding area could provide those opportunities on a scale he’d never experienced before. Buchanan is happy with the choice he made to move to Page.
“I’m surprisingly shocked by how much I like Page,” Buchanan said. “I like the small-town feel and how friendly everyone is to me. People are genuinely nice. It was kind of weird to me how friendly people were to me. That’s one thing they didn’t have in the Bay Area.”
Buchanan says his co-workers give him a lot of ideas about places to visit and things to do, and usually follow-up with him on Monday morning to see if he got out.
Buchanan will soon be implementing a new program at Page High School called Discovery Kitchen. To make it happen, he will be hiring a new chef who create new dishes and discovering new menus. The menu creation will involve input from PUSD who will serve as taste-testers. If the students like the new menus, they could then get added to the school lunch menus.
“This is the creative part of the job. I like working in this round,” said Buchanan. “We get to be creative, and we can get the students involved.”
Buchanan also has a busy life outside of work. He’s the author of two books: one is a book of poetry he wrote in his 20s called “Blue Emotions,” and the other book is about personal accountability and taking positive actions to better one’s life titled “Letter-9, Under Construction.”
“’Letter-9, Under Construction’ is about going from Action to Zest, or A to Z,” said Buchanan. “It has 52 chapters, one for each week of the year.”
The book grew out of motivational texts Buchanan would text to his friends each morning.
“I did it for about three months, then I got busy and stopped doing it,” Buchanan recalled. “I didn’t realize my friends were even reading them until I stopped doing it. Then I got a bunch of texts saying, ‘Hey, where’s my motivational text?’”
It was then that Buchanan thought he might be onto something bigger and decided to take what he was doing and expand it into a book.
“I thought it was just going to be a little a short book,” he said, “but it grew and grew. I kept having ideas I wanted to add to it.”
It took him four years to complete the book version, but an e-edition of the book is still ongoing. The e-edition of the book is meant to be interactive. It encourages the reader to journalize, to contemplate their own lives and actions and what consequences those actions have had on their lives. As a reader makes his or her way through the e-edition of the book, journaling as they go, it allows them to be the author of their own life story.
“Letter-9” followed the publication of “Blue Emotions,” which is a collection of spoken-word poems.
“Spoken word poetry was big in Chicago,” said Buchanan. “That was the true poetry seen in Chicago.”
Buchanan’s interest in spoken-word poetry came from watching a movie called “Love Jones,” part of which was centered around the Chicago poetry scene of the nineties.
“I really connected with it,” Buchanan said. “I started writing poems and performing them at a coffee shop called Rituals.”
Buchanan and his friends would attend spoken-word poetry open mics twice a week.
“Sunday was the big day,” he said. “I tried to have a new poem ready to go every Sunday.”
Buchanan’s poetry came from his life.
“I talked about love, politics, being a man, being black. As a poet, I wrote what I felt. I used to title my poems but I stopped doing that. I might start with a certain intention, but the poems often took on a life of their own,” he said.
Buchanan published his first poem when he was 10 or 11. The poem was published in the Chicago Tribune as part of a school writing project.
“It was a very proud moment for me, and it was first time my dad told me he was proud of me. He must’ve bought 50 newspapers the day my poem appeared and gave them out to everyone he knew,” he said.
As involved as Buchanan is with literature and the literary life, you’d expect to hear that he majored in English or journalism, but he got his degree in business administration from
Robert Morris University and attended grad school at National Louis University in Chicago.
“Poetry was actually my release from all that school and work,” he said.
Buchanan says continuing to write and evolve the e-edition of “Letter-9” is his current release from work-life.
“When I go back and read it, it still rings true to me. It grounds me from where I was and how far I’ve come in life,” he said.