Joe Urban, director of food and nutrition services for Greenville County Schools in Greenville, S.C. is retiring at the end of January.
Urban took the helm of the district’s nutrition program 17 years ago after he sold his chain of '50s diners in central Florida and moved to Greenville with his wife, who was hired as an administrator by the district. Urban originally had no interest in pursuing school food, but his wife encouraged him to consider taking a job in school foodservice.
"I had never thought about schools before,” he says. “I really had no intention to ever go that route because I didn't have great experiences with it but she convinced me to take a leap of faith 17 years ago and the rest is history.”
Over the years, he worked to transform the foodservice program at the district by introducing a variety of new menu items and concepts, including several different build-your-own bars, global limited-time offers (LTOs) and a barbecue team that serves students barbecue smoked on-site using a wood-burning smoker. He also oversaw the creation of the cafeteria and kitchen at the district’s Roper Mountain Science Center.
“It's been such a pleasure to work for this amazing organization,” says Urban. “They've been so supportive of me throughout the 17 years I've been here. They've allowed me to really help redefine what K-12 school food can be nationally, so I'll forever be grateful for them for that.”
Urban will now focus on growing his K-12 consulting brand School Food Rocks. His final day with the district will be January 31. Greenville County Schools has not announced his replacement, but Urban is excited for whoever inherits the program next.
“It really is a great opportunity for somebody to walk into what is widely considered to be the gold standard school food program with the most supportive organization ever,” he says. “It’s a great opportunity for whoever's gonna get it next.”