Senior General Manager

Dearborn Public Schools (Southwest Foodservice Excellence)

Dearborn, Mich.

Age: 31

Proudest career accomplishment in the past year:

Overseeing the transition of Dearborn Public Schools from a self-operated to managed model has been extremely rewarding. Dearborn is extremely diverse, with a high demand for halal options. We’ve successfully implemented a fully compliant, fully halal program that the community has received with open arms, and the student response has exceeded all expectations.

Biggest challenge you’ve overcome:

The lack of halal products that meet the needs of K-12 has been a challenge. I’m fortunate to have a great on-site team that hasn’t been slowed down by this, though. … We’ve also been able to partner with various manufacturers to develop new products that meet the needs of our students and have been able to mitigate the higher cost of halal items through smart menu planning and a heavier focus on plant-based entrees. 

An important lesson learned:

I’ve had the opportunity to lead child nutrition departments in Texas, Pennsylvania and Michigan. While the programs I’ve worked with have been vastly different, I’ve recognized many constants that transcend geographic and cultural differences: Every community has hungry children, employees deserve to be celebrated, students love choice and everyone has an opinion worth hearing, to name a few.

What you’d change about the industry:

The stigma attached to school lunch disappoints me deeply. The vast majority of employees working in K-12 love students and work ridiculously hard to put out quality food every day. Our front-line workers are truly the unsung heroes of the educational system. They humbly play a critical role that is far more demanding than most people realize.