What has been your proudest career accomplishment within the last year?

Using creative service models to drive the district to its greatest financial surplus to date. Participation increased 187% over the last year. I'm extremely proud of my staff for all of their hard work during an unprecedented and unpredictable time.

How has the COVID pandemic changed your approach to foodservice?

COVID turned everything upside [down] in the world of school foodservice and forced us to adapt and improvise. The importance of "rolling with the punches" was very apparent—from supply chain disruptions, menu changes, packaging, service models and staff shortages, nothing was "normal."

I learned how important it is to plan ahead and make confident decisions with the kids’ best interest at heart, while simultaneously resisting the urge to fight change. The most important thing was feeding the kids a high quality, nutritious meal every day. Although it looked different than years previous, we provided quality foods to those who needed it most.

What’s been your most rewarding moment?

It's the little moments, like a hug from a 2nd grader or a homemade thank-you note from a kindergartner saying how much they love the "chikin nugets" and "how nise" it is that we make them food every day. Those little things make me feel really good about the program.

What's the one thing you wish you could change about the industry?

Speaking to the [National School Lunch Program] and [School Breakfast Program], specifically, the amount of food waste. The program is very well-intended with a huge focus on fresh fruits and vegetables, but oftentimes, a child grabs an apple to be compliant per the guidelines and tosses it right in the trash. It kills me to see!

We implement "share tables" to try to minimize waste, but I know there is so much more that can be done. I would like to see all federally funded programs share resources to minimize waste and maximize impact on communities.