Jennifer McFarland, R.D.

McFarland's programs resulted in a 10% increase in participation across the district.

Details

Director of Food and Nutrition Services, Center Grove Community School Corp., Greenwood, Ind.
Age: 29
Education: B.S. in dietetics, nutrition, fitness and health from Purdue University
Years at organization: 4

Why Selected?

Rose Smith, assistant director of food and nutrition services, says: The district had very low participation before Jennifer arrived. During her first year, with menu and production changes, the high school participation increased 22.5%, with an overall 10% districtwide increase. Jennifer also advocated for and received a $1.25 million renovation of a poorly designed high school kitchen and cafeteria. Production is now much more efficient and functional, making the working environment much better for employees. 

Get to know

Q. What has been your proudest accomplishment?

My first year on the job we sold 185,000 more reimbursable meals. I think that was our highest achievement. We increased entrées at all levels. We added lines at the secondary schools and we added as much fresh produce as possible to the menu. 

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

I’m not stuck in my ways. I jump at the opportunity to try something new or advance current practices. Our department is doing a technology pilot upgrade, and I think that’s because of our forward thinking and openness to change. 

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

Lead by example and love what you do.

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

Completing a nine-week kitchen remodel of our high school. We had many challenges we had to face with budgeting and making it a more efficient kitchen with the same existing space. 

Q. What's been your most rewarding moment?

Increasing staff development and sending our managers to state and national conferences. Our employees have been so instrumental in recipe creation and finding new products, and including them in the decision-making process has made us a better team. 

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

I want to do more scratch cooking and continue to change the way students think about food. 

Q. What's been your funniest on-the-job disaster?

Pulling up to one of our middle schools to see 900 students evacuated and multiple fire trucks in the parking lot. We had a small fire in a pass-through warmer and it set off the building fire alarm. Luckily nobody was hurt. The fire extinguisher caused more damage than the fire. We managed to feed the last lunch of 300 students out of the teachers’ lounge. It ended up being a great practice fire drill for the district. 

Q. What can you look back at now and laugh at?

I was working 12-hour days my first few months on the job. I remember my boss coming to my office, turning off my light and escorting me to leave for the day. I felt like I had a million and one things to complete before my first staff meeting. Looking back I can laugh at the amount of pressure I put on myself in the beginning. 

Under 30