Regional School Nutrition Managers of the Year Awarded

Managers of school kitchens and cafeteria keep things running smoothly, overseeing everything from staff and food presentation to equipment and decor. They know their school and their students and are always working to create the best lunchroom experience. In recognition of their outstanding hard work and dedication, the national, non-profit School Nutrition Association(SNA) has awarded the 2018 Regional Managers of the Year, 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.

Only seven school nutrition and food service managers in the country are chosen for this exclusive regional award and those who have been recognized are shining examples of  what it means to be enthusiastic, knowledgeable and creative leaders in their field.

Angela Allen from South Jordan Elementary School in Jordan School District – UtahIMG_6029 new

Angela Allen strives to make her cafeteria a fun, relaxed and welcoming place for students and staff members. She spends part of every lunch period out in the cafeteria talking to students, asking about their lunch, encouraging them to try new things and taking note of what they like or dislike. To form better connections with students, she tries to learn all of their names and include them in cafeteria activities whenever possible. After giving one class a recent kitchen tour, Angela provided hairnets and aprons and helped them make bread dough that they turned into pizzas and cinnamon sticks for lunch. Angela and her staff are known for creating elaborate decorations, donning full costumes and playing music during themed lunch days. After organizing a morning visit from “Ace the Kitchen Elf,” breakfast participation nearly doubled. Bringing students healthy food and joy are her main objectives. She has served as a facilitator for “Team Up for Success” and a skills panelist at the state SNA conference. Whenever she can, Angela enjoys sharing knowledge and experiences with colleagues in the hope that it can benefit others in the school nutrition field.

Ruth Conner, Buffalo Public Schools – New York Principal Strickland

One of Ruth Conner’s primary duties as child nutrition supervisor is to create the school menu. She’s always researching for new promotions, recipe ideas and ways to incorporate locally grown produce. She initiated a farm to school workshop on “Community Saturdays” where parents, students and members of the community learn about what they can grow in their backyard. For more than 20 years, Ruth has dedicated her life to improving child nutrition, building strong relationships within her district and participating in educational workshops. She has hosted various events for the public to learn what is happening in school nutrition, including inviting state senators to taste-test healthy school meals. Ruth initiated the “Looking Beyond the First Impression” workshop in the spring of 2017, to help provide a support system for staff that may be facing challenges both in and out of work. She believes in leading by example, organizing wellness opportunities for staff to show that health should be important at any age. Ruth touts the benefits of being an SNA member, recently receiving scholarship funds that supported her earning School Nutrition Specialist recognition.

Elizabeth Glaser from Ponca City Senior High School in Ponca City Public Schools – Oklahoma Caleb

With a flair for designing on a dime, Elizabeth Glaser successfully redecorated dining spaces and serving lines by re-purposing and finding deep discounts to stay on budget and on trend. Taking cues from popular restaurant and retail establishments, Elizabeth recreated similar serving lines and menus in the cafeteria, implementing new options like sweet chili wild wings and build-your-own Caesar salads. To encourage effective staff training, she changed the format to reflect an interactive quiz show style of questions, complete with a Jeopardy soundtrack. She provides new creative ideas and group activities to keep staff development interesting for participants. Each year, Elizabeth helps organize the student server staff, menu and decorations for her district’s annual Teacher of the Year banquet. Her love of community is in everything she does. She has organized food booths at the annual Freedom Celebration and various community birthday events. She also helps design several floats for the town’s Lighted Christmas Parade and has raised funds to send Christmas cards and cookie vouchers to former students serving in the military.

Larry Jackson from Furlow Charter School in Sumter County School District – Georgia Larry Jackson - Manager of Year

Going the extra mile comes naturally to Larry Jackson, who takes the time to visit with students during meal service, jotting down their likes and dislikes. Many new recipes have come out of his taste-testing efforts and the student suggestion box he implemented, including healthy desserts  – such as whole grain chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies. Larry also created a flavor station in the cafeteria so that students could season their foods without increasing sodium levels. To Larry, community outreach offers an important opportunity to further teach people about the great things going on in school nutrition and in farm-to-school efforts. He is always serving smiles with a positive attitude and a professional demeanor. He doesn’t just focus on students, but all members of his school community who utilize the cafeteria, including staff, administration and faculty. His customized salads have been a big hit among adults. Always willing to help where needed, Larry volunteers to make all of the food for the school’s pancake breakfast fundraisers, staff birthdays and special occasions in and out of the cafeteria. His generous nature and excellent skill set make him a great leader.

Trish Peterson from Frederick Douglass Elementary Seaford School District – Delaware 20180424_090453

As nutrition manager, Trish Peterson takes a hands-on approach, often sitting with children in the cafeteria to talk about the importance of nutrition. Trish developed the “Student Food Council,” a group that allows students to voice their concerns or praises about school meals. She worked closely with school administrators to select students to serve on the council and help improve the school nutrition program. She also organizes taste tests and introduces new menu options every month. She has gradually increased the number of students who eat school lunch by promoting the delicious and nutritious meals that her school serves every day. Trish loves National School Breakfast Week and National School Lunch Week, often planning trivia games, giveaways and mascot visits and fully decorating cafeterias for the famous weeklong celebrations. Her efforts aided her school district’s Summer Food Service Program to grow one and half times, serving over 21,000 hot, nutritious meals last summer and expanding to 11 stops, including churches, parks, schools and neighborhoods. Her food drives have become legendary in her community to collect food for the less fortunate every year.

Gretchen Schroeder from Jackson Middle School in Anoka-Hennepin Independent School District – Minnesotagsb.JPG

Gretchen Schroeder took on the position of child nutrition program site supervisor in 2006, managing a cafeteria serving 2,200+ students as well as two kitchens almost a half-mile apart. To serve more efficiently and alleviate long lines and wait times for students, Gretchen re-structured the cafeteria to create three full service lines offering the same menu selections. Her high standards in service result in cheerful cafeterias and beautiful food presentations. Beloved by students, Gretchen is approachable and welcoming to all, treating her students who have special dietary needs with care and respect. She has been innovative in helping grow participation in the Grab & Go breakfast program and is known to deliver breakfast to students who missed the morning meal. She set up breakfast service from the cafeteria as well as serving from two carts located in various areas in the building to help ensure students get their first meal of the day before class. Gretchen is extremely helpful to staff, creating a positive and comfortable environment. As a mentor to other site supervisors, she is known to be flexible, patient and encouraging in her training style. Her positive role modeling shows others how to mentor their staff and increase involvement with SNA.





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, she worked in many areas of foodservice—public schools, colleges, hospitals and elderly feeding programs. Louise 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 Louise, 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.


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