FSD's 20 Most Influential

Inaugural list identifies those people having the biggest impact on non-commercial foodservice.

Dr. Janey Thornton
Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services,
U.S. Department of Agriculture,
Washington, D.C.

It’s hard to imagine a more dynamic time in child nutrition than the past three years, which corresponds to the start of Janey Thornton’s tenure with the USDA. Appointed by President Obama to the agency in 2009, Thornton was challenged with the administration’s charge to make school meals healthier. Obama and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack clearly thought Thornton had the goods to effect change. After more than 25 years as school nutrition director for Hardin County Schools in Kentucky and serving as SNA’s president in 2006-2007, Thornton had the hands-on experience to provide the federal agency with the voice of the everyday child nutrition director. Something other directors were excited about.  

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More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
vote buttons pins

On every other Thursday of our four-week cycle menu, we allow K-8 students to pick the entree choices. The media center specialist for each of the participating schools sets up the list of entree items on a computer for voting, and the winning entrees are given to cafeteria managers two weeks before the upcoming month to put into production. Students really like this, as it promotes ownership of the menu.

Ideas and Innovation
chalkboard

We highlight our North Carolina products on a large chalkboard in our dining halls, and also list any produce we bring in from our own agroecology farm. It helps tell our story—positive and local.

Ideas and Innovation
raised garden beds

We have raised garden beds that residents can reserve and use to grow their own plants. Whenever a resident brings me fresh produce from their own garden, I try and incorporate it into a dish. If I do end up using it, I will display the resident’s name and what the produce was next to the dish on the menu.

Ideas and Innovation
chartwells teaching kids

Curriculum for the mobile teaching kitchen centers around a single kid-friendly recipe, using ingredients that can provide talking points for nutrition, sustainability and food origins. “The recipe is the lesson,” Saidel says. “Every ingredient is an opportunity to talk.”

Earlier this year, Saidel, Perkins and Harvey did a student demo featuring roasted chicken and white bean tacos with greens and citrus salsa. “We can say, ‘Why are we using chicken instead of beef? Why are there some beans in here?’ You can talk about plant proteins and the sustainability and health message around...

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