School Lunch Hero Day Celebrates 2018 National Award Winners

School Lunch Heroes aren’t recognized for wearing capes, they can be seen behind the serving line in the kitchen, walking through the cafeteria checking on students or even behind-the-scenes planning menus and special initiatives. Effort, dedication and compassion are the secret recipes to their success, and a lot goes into making the school meal experience fun and nutritious for their students.

Recognizing this year’s “cream of the crop,” the School Nutrition Association (SNA) today announced national winners for Director, Manager and Employee of the Year to showcase the amazing work of these school nutrition professionals just in time for School Lunch Hero Day! The non-profit organization has once again teamed up with Jarrett J. Krosoczka, author and illustrator of the popular LUNCH LADY graphic novel series, to celebrate all of America’s school nutrition professionals through School Lunch Hero Day, which will take place on Friday, May 4.

Thousands of school nutrition professionals across the country were nominated by their peers. From the nominations, state winners and then regional winners were selected anonymously, leading the way to the 2018 national winners! SNA recognizes Constance Little of Ohio as the Director of the Year, Jerrilyn Hernandez of Idaho as Manager of the Year and Debra “Kay” Flynt of Georgia as Employee of the Year. These three national winners are recognized as experts in their districts, regions and throughout the entire country. With pride for their program and dedication to their students’ health, they are committed to the success of their school meal programs.

Director of the Year – Constance “Connie” Little, SNS, Nutrition Services Supervisor for Beavercreek City Schools, Ohiounnamed-2

Celebrating 21 years as a member of SNA and eight years as a supervisor, Connie brings a great deal of nutrition knowledge and operations savvy to the district, creating a more efficient nutrition services program. Connie has implemented many cost-savings initiatives while still ensuring her schools provide quality foods and great customer service. Connie helped secure over $38,000 in grants, including one for the creation of The Beavercreek Breakfast Club in the high school – a program which increased student participation by 15 percent. A few of her legacies include a great training program she developed called, “A Trip Down the Yellow Brick Road-Learning the Meal Pattern.” Using the Wizard of Oz concept, she helps her staff learn the protein, grain, fruit, vegetable and milk requirements for each grade level. Connie also created the “Bake A Great Team” bake-off, which started in August of 2017. She developed team rules for her staff, researched district trivia and coordinated the kitchen, equipment, utensils, baking supplies, judging criteria sheets and award ribbons for four teams. Her creativity and passion knows no bounds!


Manager of the Year – Jerrilyn Hernandez from Orofino Junior-Senior High School in Joint School District 171, IdahoSLHD Jerrilyn MOY

Jerrilyn has made it her mission to research various grants to support new ways of offering healthy options in the cafeteria. Through those grants, she has implemented several successful initiatives, including a new smoothie and yogurt parfait maker, an a la carte kiosk and a salad bar, which has helped increase student consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. Jerrilyn also helped implemented a Breakfast in the Classroom program, increasing breakfast participation from 16 percent to 89 percent at the school. Talk about impressive! She is responsible for more than just her school building cafeteria, also overseeing food delivery to two smaller, more remote school sites in the district. Over the past several years, she has also taken on the responsibility of training all 20 district staff on maintaining production records, which has led to greatly improved accuracy.

Debra “Kay” Flynt from Goodyear Elementary in Glynn County School System, GeorgiaSLHD Debra EOY

When you want to learn about handling dough, ask for Kay! She has become known as the top bread maker in Glynn County schools, always there to help train each school kitchen to create “the perfect roll” for district students. Goodyear also has one of the highest consumption rates of fresh fruits and vegetables, something supervisors attribute to the colorful displays that Kay creates for students. She is a true community builder, dedicating her time and efforts to improving the school meal experience for Goodyear students every day. Whether providing extra prizes on lucky tray day, donating life-sized stuffed animals or embroidering students’ names on items that they can win, she finds ways to go above and beyond her food service assistant duties. Each special occasion is made much more exciting with Kay’s serving line decorations, including her life-sized Santa greeting students at Christmas-time or the tailgate tent she created for students to walk through during the school’s Sports Week. In addition to giving her time, Kay has anonymously paid off students’ lunch accounts when she can.

On School Lunch Hero Day, May 4, students, faculty and parents across the country will show their appreciation with thanks, cards and recognition for their cafeteria staff. Visit for more information.

SNA is also announcing regional award winners this week. National, regional and state level award winners will all be honored in July during the Red Carpet Awards Ceremony at the School Nutrition Association’s Annual National Conference in Las Vegas, NV.




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