Christina Kepa

Norfolk Publich Schools' Christina Kepa brings unmatched creativity and enthusiasm to her job.

Why Selected?

Helen Phillips, senior director of school nutrition, says: Christina brings unmatched creativity and enthusiasm to the job. She enjoys a challenge and always wants to be the best. She has shown great leadership skills and has developed several new initiatives, including updating the department’s Web site and adding an option for people to subscribe to receive e-mails about program updates and information; creating a marketing video that promotes schools meals; conducting taste tests with students; launching a social media campaign; and designing promotions throughout the school year to encourage students to try new items like edamame and spaghetti squash.

Details

Nutrition Education and Training Coordinator, Norfolk Public Schools, Norfolk, VA
Age: 26
Education: B.S. in dietetics from Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; master’s in dietetics from James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Va.
Years at organization: 2

Get to know

Q. What has been your proudest accomplishment?

I graduated in 2007, which was the semester of April 16th (when 32 people were killed by a gunman on Virginia Tech’s campus). My menu planning class was cut short, and we had a menu-planning project that we never got to do. My greatest accomplishment was planning my first menu and seeing the changes that I’ve made.

Q. What would you say you excel at over more seasoned colleagues?

Understanding and staying abreast of the latest trends in everything. I can relate to the kids sometimes easier. I’m definitely someone who pushes the envelope; that’s something I think you lose a little bit of as you get older.

Q. What's the best career advice you've been given?

My band director in college told me never to underestimate the power of networking. In college I think you don’t really understand what networking is, but as I’ve progressed in my career I’ve learned that building bridges is important.

Q. What's been the biggest challenge you've had to overcome?

Making sure people understand you, relating to people and learning how to work with people. I’m a pretty independent person and a free thinker, but I can’t just hit the road running and not look around and see the people around me.

Q. What's been your most rewarding moment?

My most rewarding moment has come from the USDA’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable grant. I love watching students who don’t know what certain fruits and vegetables are embrace it and love it.

Q. What would you like to accomplish in your career in the next two years?

To have all menus be 100% student approved through taste testing.

Under 30

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
chefs

We started inviting chefs and FSDs from other districts to come prepare lunch. Through featuring different chefs and chef-inspired meals, I’ve found the students have been looking forward to coming into the cafeteria. They are willing to try new things with crazy names, and to ask for their favorite outside items turned healthy.

Ideas and Innovation
tapas

I’ve created a high school “focus group” to see what future college students will want in terms of foodservice. This year, I called up two now-seniors from the last group to get 10 of their friends together. I also include a sophomore or two so that I always have a contact for next year. Tapas, grain bowls and late-night breakfast all originated from this group.

Ideas and Innovation
making meals

This summer, we teamed up with a church to deliver meals to three housing projects. We brought the meals to the church, and then the church recruited volunteers to deliver the meals to the children. We’ve been very impressed with this new model, and it shows great promise in getting meals to children who otherwise would not be able to leave their housing project.

Industry News & Opinion
sharing love

Having never personally experienced a hurricane, I can only imagine the horrors faced by the millions of people whose lives were affected by Harvey and Irma in late August and early September. It’s a group that comprises uncounted noncommercial operations, including Houston Independent School District, which serves 215,000 students.

But from that tragedy has come one of the most impressive feats of foodservice I’ve seen since coming on board at this magazine, partially spearheaded by Nutrition Officer Betti Wiggins , who only just joined the district. For the entire school year,...

FSD Resources