Food Service Professionals Named Regional Managers of the Year

Managers of food service are often the ones troubleshooting a problem, too busy to be recognized by students, but helping to create an enjoyable and choreographed cafeteria experience. In recognition of their outstanding hard work and dedication, the national, non-profit School Nutrition Association (SNA) has awarded the 2017 Regional Managers of the Year, which is considered the highest honor a school nutrition manager can earn. The award recognizes a cafeteria manager who has demonstrated dedication and ingenuity to improve his or her school meal program.

The Manager of the Year Award is given in honor of Louise Sublette, a leader in school nutrition in her state and in the national School Nutrition Association. During her 43 years in the profession, Sublette worked in many areas of foodservice—public schools, colleges, hospitals and elderly feeding programs. Sublette dedicated her career to honoring school nutrition professionals and ensuring those who work in school cafeterias have access to professional development opportunities, empowering them to help their school meal programs flourish.

In honor of Sublette, the award reflects the numerous accomplishments of regional cafeteria and food service managers, who help to improve the health and well being of district students and staff.

Kathy Carpenter from Morley Nelson Elementary in Boise School District – IdahoGalleryPhoto

Kathy Carpenter started an at-risk supper program last year for children and adults and works tirelessly to organize and train involved staff. She continues to help with the promotion of the program in order to serve as many students as they can. Carpenter knows how to utilize her expertise in the school setting and always uses school open houses as an opportunity to educate parents and guardians about the School Nutrition Program. She makes a difference in the Greater Boise community as well, volunteering at the food bank for the “backpack program,” helping sort donated product and assisting the local chapter to make blankets and help baskets for local charities.

Dianne Ferguson from Barrows Elementary School in Reading Public School District – Massachusettsunnamed copy

Dianne Ferguson knows more than just her students’ names, but the specific needs, interests and medical challenges of each child. Known for her informational bulletin boards, Ferguson recently created a board depicting foods of the word – showing where that food can be found and interesting facts about the native areas. She has helped with a number of health and nutrition programs in the school, including a student group to create a healthy snack program, the Smarter Lunchrooms initiative and the school’s Wellness, Allergy, Safety, and Health committee (WASH), taking her contributions beyond the kitchen to the wider school community. Ferguson makes herself available during, before, and after paid hours to meet with parents who have questions and concerns about their child’s diet and options.

Kathy Harmon from E.K. Baker Elementary in McMinn County School District – TennesseeIMG_0818 copy

Kathy Harmon turned around her school’s cafeteria, making it more financially sound, increasing student breakfast and lunch participation and offering more programs with a better menu. She works closely with other school staff, creating programs about health, eating well and fitness, along with the district’s physical education teachers. Because of her positive attitude and efficient way of running the cafeteria, high turnover in staffing has stopped and student satisfaction is at an all-time high. Harmon also takes an interest in students who aren’t trying school meals to see if there is something they might like, helping them to explore options and open their mind to new flavors.

Kevin Huffman from Star Spencer High School in Oklahoma City Public Schools – Oklahomaunnamed-1 copy

Kevin Huffman’s can-do attitude helped make the implementation of his school’s breakfast cart program a reality and ensured up to 100 more students are ready for the classroom every day, with a 30 percent increase in school breakfast participation. He is often asked to train others outside his kitchen and supervision, helping to reduce food waste by two percent and decrease absenteeism by 25 percent since his arrival at his school. Huffman has also been a unique team player, working with the home economics instructor and school administrators to implement programs that will help improve the lives’ and health of his students.

Stacey Kindred from Summit Pointe Elementary in Lee’s Summit R-7 School DistrictMissouri unnamed-1 copy

Stacey Kindred shows that a positive environment is key when trying to get students to make healthy choices. Her cafeteria is always decorated, she invites special guests and she and her staff dress up for events, conducting contests and giving out prizes. She conducts taste-testing sessions in classrooms to learn what students think about potential menu options. Kindred finds new ways to make students and school staff feel special, addressing everyone by their name and even emailing teachers when their favorite menu opinion is being served. She demonstrates school spirit and gives cafeteria tours at school events.

DeLona Wuthrich from Holbrook Elementary in Davis Public Schools – UtahDeLona copy

DeLona Wuthrich has a knack for creative decorations and making the cafeteria a welcoming place for students, staff and visitors. Wuthrich loves her decorations so much, she wrote a book about them coming to life at night, a copy of which can be found in the school library. She creates her famous bulletin boards and decorations by hand, made with paper scraps so as to not create added waste. She considers the cafeteria her classroom, hoping to educate her students about the importance of a nutritious meal and healthy eating habits. Admired for her kindness and respect, her colleagues say she is a great example to students.

In July, all 20 Regional Award winners and the top three National Award winners will be honored during the Awards Ceremony at the School Nutrition Association’s Annual National Conference in Atlanta, GA.

SNA has teamed up with Jarrett J. Krosoczka, author and illustrator of the popular LUNCH LADY graphic novel series, and Random House Children’s Books to celebrate all of America’s school nutrition professionals through School Lunch Hero Day, May 5. Students, faculty and parents across the country will show their appreciation with thanks, cards and recognition for their cafeteria staff. Visit for more information.


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