Celebrating School Nutrition Directors for their Dedication

In conjunction with School Lunch Hero Day, School Nutrition Association is highlighting the achievements of those named Director of the Year from regions across the country. The award recognizes extraordinary contributions of directors who manage effective school meal programs providing healthy, appetizing meals to students. 

Lynne Shore, Nutrition Services Director for Willamina School District, OR

Lynne Shore, Nutrition Services Director for Willamina School District, Oregon, Western regional Director of the Year  

Students are reaping the benefits of a nutrition program that Lynne Shore has spent more than a decade turning around. Shore took several steps to accomplish financial self-sufficiency while enhancing the district’s cafeterias to be positive and inviting for students. She trains staff in customer service and encourages them to know students’ names. It is a regular occurrence to see staff members playing music and dancing with students during lunch. The positive impact has made lasting impressions, with former students returning to district schools as parents, sharing memories of the kindness of their nutrition staff.

Shore instituted a Breakfast in the Classroom program, an after-school snack program and applied to be a Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) district to ensure all students have access to free healthy school meals through the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs. Shore has applied for multiple grants to help improve the program’s bottom line while bringing much-needed elements to improve students’ experience in her cafeterias, including salad bars, milk coolers and point-of-sale kiosks. 

Shore plans school events to spread fun, nutritional information without the students even realizing they are learning, such as kid chef competitions and student cooking classes. 

Working with local vendors and community partners, Shore teaches the students about where their food comes from, bringing in local farmers for meet and greets. Students ask questions, take photos and learn farm facts through games, creating lasting positive impressions. The next project for Shore is a farmer’s market at the district’s schools. Funding from a grant will allow the students to shop for food for their families.  

Rachel Roybal-Rogers, Food Service Director for Mora Independent School District, MN

Rachel Roybal-Rogers, Food Service Director for Mora Independent School District, New Mexico, Southwest regional Director of the Year

Rachel Roybal-Rogers has positively impacted her food service program by promoting healthier choices for students, including locally sourced fresh fruits and vegetables, meats and legumes. She coordinated the installation of salad bars in the cafeterias to make fruits and vegetables readily available to students. She offers taste tests during  National School Lunch and Breakfast Weeks to give students the opportunity to make their voices heard regarding menu options.

Under her leadership, Breakfast in the Classroom was implemented at the district’s elementary schools, supporting an increase in meal participation. At the district’s middle and high schools, new grab-and-go breakfast options are now available, helping reduce class tardiness as well.

Roybal-Rogers assisted in implementing the mobile app to give parents and students access to menus and it also allows coordination with the school nurse on food allergens and carbohydrate counts.  Themed days, special events and celebrations are also incorporated into the school menus. Roybal-Rogers encourages her staff to try new scratch recipes as well.

The school district covers a large rural area of New Mexico, which presented a challenge for summer meal distribution. Roybal-Rogers opened sites for the Seamless Summer meal program at each of the area fire departments to provide easier access for students to get breakfast and lunch when school was out for the summer 

Craig Schneider, Director of Child Nutrition for Poudre School District, CO

Craig Schneider, Director of Child Nutrition for Poudre School District, Colorado, Mountain Plains regional Director of the Year

Craig Schneider has transformed the child nutrition department by promoting outstanding customer and employee satisfaction, exhibiting superb financial management and ensuring the highest degree of safety. Under Schneider, the district’s special diet program has become one of the most extensive in the industry, incorporating a variety of menus daily to accommodate common dietary needs as well as religious and customer preferences. The nutrition department offers one-on-one consultation services to students and parents. 

Schneider has evolved breakfast and lunch menus, regularly offering a minimum of six fresh fruits and vegetables daily, including non-traditional fruit and vegetables monthly. All 50 schools in the district offer all-you-can-eat fresh fruit and vegetable bars. The district has an extensive ingredient database where parents can see exactly what is in the food being served. Schneider’s implementation of the database has also led to reductions in additives from menus.

Schneider believes healthy lifestyles start with eating properly. He encourages the district’s registered dietitians to speak to classes about topics such as differences in healthy dieting and fad diets for adolescents, dealing with food allergies, as well as assessing sugar levels of popular beverages and considering healthier alternatives. 

Schneider started a Physical Fitness and Nutrition Advisory Committee of local physicians, parents, students and university professors to provide feedback on everything from ingredients on the menus to the outreach of the meal program. 

Stephanie Hawkins, Food Service Director for Fairfield Community School District, IA

Stephanie Hawkins, Food Service Director for Fairfield Community School District, Iowa, Midwest regional Director of the Year 

Stephanie Hawkins has made positive impacts across the school nutrition program. Student involvement is very important to Hawkins. She created student advisory committees to listen to ideas while helping students learn about the requirements and guidelines the program must follow. Through conversations with student customers, Hawkins has added new features, including the Senior Favorites Week Menu allowing graduating seniors a chance to enjoy all their favorite school meals. She also started a cafe at the high school to offer quick nutritious snacks and drinks alongside menu options. Proving popular with students, the cafe has also been an effective generator of new revenue for the program. Hawkins then introduced a small selection of cafe options in the middle school so those students would be familiar with the larger cafe once they reach high school.

Hawkins expanded the summer meal program from serving students only three weeks to operating June, July and the start of August. She sent postcards and emails, advertised on the school website and the program’s Facebook page to encourage all eligible families to utilize the summer meal program. Helping with pick-ups and service times, she interacts with the families and students regularly during the summer months.

Hawkins has built a level of trust with the administrators, school board and superintendent by fostering communication about her department. She understands open lines of communication are also important with staff members. She visits schools in the district daily to greet her team, address any issues and maintain a working relationship among staff. She is known to prepare, serve and/or clean up as needed when staff absences arise, which she feels is a great opportunity to interact with her team, the students and school staff.  

Lisa Winter, SNS, Senior Director of School Nutrition for Norfolk Public Schools, VA

Lisa Winter, SNS, Senior Director of School Nutrition for Norfolk Public Schools, Virginia, Mid-Atlantic regional Director of the Year 

Lisa Winter’s hard work and tenacity have helped her achieve her goal of expanding access to nutritious meals for Norfolk students. The program now participates in the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) district-wide, allowing students to receive free breakfasts and lunches, no matter their financial situation. Winter has increased the district’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program with 23 schools able to provide locally grown fruit and vegetable snacks to students at no cost. Nearly all of the district’s schools offer after-school snack and dinner programs under the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). Winter also runs a successful summer program, with 24 schools offering summer meals and partnerships forged with libraries, recreation centers, the police department and camps to ensure access across the community.

The child nutrition department now owns a food truck and uses it to support those in local food deserts and provide memorable experiences for children in the community. Winter spearheaded efforts for district schools to grow fresh produce, including micro garden and tower garden hydroponic systems.

Winter works to be connected to other programs in the district. She shares ideas to help students and families be more nutritionally sound. The nutrition department participated in a community event to provide vision correction and a vaccination clinic for underprivileged students. By teaming up with the local department of health, they were also able to provide dental hygiene resources and sports physicals ahead of the start of the school year.

In an effort to teach healthy eating habits, Winter partnered with FeastVA to host a summer cooking camp for students to learn to read labels and recipes, try different foods and understand healthier food options. Camp attendees were taught kitchen safety and received free kitchen utensils.

Jeanne Johnson, SNS, School Nutrition Director for Dedham Public Schools, MA (center)

Jeanne Johnson, SNS, School Nutrition Director for Dedham Public Schools, Massachusetts, Northeast regional Director of the Year

Jeanne Johnson is credited with making many positive changes to the school nutrition program in Dedham. Faced with the unique problem of providing meals for four elementary schools without kitchens or cafeterias, Johnson turned a storage room in the high school kitchen into a centralized production facility. The nutrition department is now able to provide those elementary school students with the same freshly made, high-quality meals as the middle and high school students.

Johnson implemented a breakfast program for all of Dedham’s schools with minimal labor cost increases. She also opened an area-eligible Summer Food Service Program site to provide free meals for all. With participation that continues to grow annually, the program provides nutritious meals for the children in the community and additional work opportunities for the school nutrition team.

Other departments in the school district know they can rely on the nutrition department for their catering needs. On a regular basis, Johnson serves lunch to the superintendent to ensure he is enjoying the same delicious and nutritious meals as the students.

Johnson has developed a strong relationship with teachers in the district. She works with the world language department to bring lessons to life, including partnering with Spanish teachers to provide students with cooking experiences to prepare culturally appropriate foods. Johnson visits classes to discuss the logistics for meal preparation of the recipes they want to try and then students and teachers work with the department to prepare the meal for everyone to enjoy. Johnson also comes up with creative ideas for theme days and district-wide contests. 

The Director of the Year Award was created to recognize school nutrition directors who exhibit an extraordinary commitment to their school meal programs. The directors are responsible for maintaining the quality of the program through student interaction, menu planning and a commitment to serving nutritious, tasty and well-balanced school meals. Through effective oversight of all aspects of food service operations, including budgeting, staffing, training, marketing and community outreach, school nutrition directors ensure the overall success of school meal programs. 

​​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, on Friday, May 5. Students, faculty and parents across the country will show their appreciation with thanks, cards and recognition for their cafeteria staff. Visit www.SchoolLunchHeroDay.com for more information.

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