Whitney Ellersick

The go-to person for her coworkers for advice and guidance on all aspects of the jobs in school operation

Why Selected?

Gitta Grether-Sweeney, director of nutrition services at Portland Public Schools, says: Whitney is the go-to person for her coworkers for advice and guidance on all aspects of the jobs in school operations. She manages day-to-day operations at 22 schools. She is responsible for hiring and training of all new employees. Whitney revitalized the district cafeteria and transformed it into an inviting deli featuring local products. Whitney has already shown her leadership within the department, and I believe she is and will be a leader in the school foodservice industry.

Details

Senior Program Manager, Portland Public Schools, Oregon
Age: 30
Education: B.S in clinical nutrition from UC Davis and a master’s in clinical nutrition from Oregon Health and Science University in Portland
Years at organization: 5

Get to know

Q. What has been your proudest accomplishment?

Being able to hire highly skilled and qualified employees for our team who love their jobs and share our vision for school food.

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

My coworkers joke that I have the memory of an elephant. I also think creatively to solve problems using technology and finding efficiencies for a lot of areas of our department.

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

My dad told me to keep my eyes and ears open because there are jobs out there that you never knew existed or you never knew were for you. He also told me that wherever you go you’re going to work with different people and personalities and to learn how to work with everybody.

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

Balancing home and work. I love my job and my field and I’m always looking at a new food or idea or an efficiency or procedure. I just had my first baby in March, so she’s testing me on the balance part.

Q. What's been your most rewarding moment?

The best part of my day is when I get to be out at the schools and see students enjoying the meals. Another is that because I’m part of the hiring process, when I offer a position to a new employee and  I hear the excitement in their voice.

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

I’d like to continue working with our progressive and proactive district and this great group of coworkers. I want to continue changes to school food and the impression of school food.

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

When I was filling in at a school I was cooking food. I realized I needed to use a different oven so I put a pan of an entrée in the oven and didn’t realize it was set to a higher temperature. When I pulled out that pan it was completely burnt.

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

We always look back at the first month of school and we tend to have a lot of equipment down, personnel holes to fill and we’re trying to start new programs. We are always running around and it always ends up not going how we planned, but we work together, have a good time and laugh about it.

Under 30

More From FoodService Director

Managing Your Business
pizza toppings

When the FoodService Director editors first started tossing around the idea of an “influencers” issue, our minds immediately turned to, well, foodservice directors. After all, so much of the learning in this industry is a peer-to-peer experience, and it’s your influence that inspires the content in every single issue of this magazine.

Then we imagined the massive infighting that would occur if we tried to whittle ourselves down to a list of just 20 influential operators and thought better of it. There’s already enough arguing for us to do about which pizza toppings are best (...

Ideas and Innovation
granola bars

Where possible, we make grab-and-go items reimbursable. For example, if we’re serving a fruit and milk smoothie, we let students take a granola bar or other grain component to make it count as a meal.

Ideas and Innovation
unsung heroes graphic

Febin Bellamy, a senior at Georgetown University, is the founder of Unsung Heroes, a nonprofit that features service workers on college campuses in man-on-the-street-style Facebook interviews. This year, Bellamy is working with a dozen schools to launch their own chapters of the storytelling platform. Here’s what he’s learned about staff shoutouts.

Q: Why did you decide to start Unsung Heroes?

A: One day I started a conversation with a custodial worker in the business school that I would see all the time. I learned that we had a lot of similarities; for instance, we both wanted to...

Ideas and Innovation
bolognese sauce

We’re trying to bring scratch cooking to all the elementary schools, but we’re taking it dish by dish. Right now, we satellite a lot of the dishes out. This month we made a Bolognese from scratch, and went to each of the schools to talk to them about the process and see if they could implement it. It helps us find out the hurdles and what they are going to need to make it work.

FSD Resources