SNF to Honor 2016 School Nutrition Heroes



Contact: Diane Pratt-Heavner  


SNF to Honor 2016 School Nutrition Heroes  


NATIONAL HARBOR, MD – The non-profit School Nutrition Foundation (SNF) has announced the national recognition of five 2016 School Nutrition Heroes for their efforts. The Heroes were nominated by their peers and chosen by SNF to represent the many professionals who have dedicated their lives to serving the needs of their school district and community.

The 2016 School Nutrition Heroes are making a difference and positive impact for students and community members in various ways. Notable achievements by this year’s Heroes include: securing grants to support employee health and wellness initiatives; training special needs students in food service to prepare them for jobs after graduation; volunteering with a program to encourage absent students to return to school; supporting childhood cancer awareness through scholarships and fundraising; and maintaining a clothing closet for students in need.

The 2016 School Nutrition Heroes are:

 Chris Burkhardt, SNS
Director of Child Nutrition & Wellness
Lakota Local School District
Liberty Township, Ohio
 Sandra Hearn
Cafeteria Manager
Vicksburg Warren School District
Vicksburg, Miss.
 Jody Houston, SNS
Food Services Director
Corpus Christi Independent School District
Corpus Christi, Texas
 Samantha Ingram
Samson Elementary Child Nutrition Manager
Geneva County Schools
Samson, Ala.
 Suellen Smith
Zephyrhills High School Cafeteria Manager
Pasco County Schools
Zephyrllis, Fla.

“The 2016 School Nutrition Heroes are leading by incredible example,” said School Nutrition Association CEO Patricia Montague, CAE. “Each has gone above and beyond to better the schools and the communities they serve. Their passion and dedication are admirable, and their exceptional work improves the well-being of their students, staff and community.”

The recipients will be recognized at SNF’s Celebration of School Nutrition Heroes, during School Nutrition Association’s 44th Legislative Action Conference (LAC) in Washington, D.C. The evening will celebrate extraordinary men and women in the school nutrition profession who make a difference in the lives of school children and go beyond their daily responsibilities. For information on purchasing tickets or tables at the Celebration, click here. Learn more about the 2016 School Nutrition Heroes:

Chris Burkhardt, SNS
Director of Child Nutrition and Wellness, Lakota Local School District, Ohio

Burkhardt manages the nutrition program in the Lakota Local School District, serving the communities of Westchester and Liberty Township, just north of Cincinnati, Ohio. Burkhardt is committed to the health and wellness of students and staff. He has secured grants to provide biometric screenings, flu shots, and health and wellness assessments for district employees. He also created the Pedometer Challenge where participants strive to achieve 10,000 steps per day in advance of running or walking in the annual Shamrock Shuffle - a 5K and 10K race for staff and students. Burkhardt extends his wellness role to the community also, serving on the board and volunteering for Reach Out Lakota, a nonprofit, ecumenical, community-based organization that provides food, clothing, personal care, and household items to low-income families. Burkhardt established the Backpack Sign-up Program at Reach Out Lakota. This fast-track program assists economically disadvantaged students with receiving free school supplies, applying for free and reduced price school meals and getting nutrition education or special dietary assistance. An active SNA member, Burkhardt will be leading the “Charge to the Hill” for the Ohio delegation at LAC.

Sandra Hearn
Cafeteria Manager, Vicksburg Warren School District, Miss.

Sandra “Sandy” Hearn takes great care of the students that she serves in Vicksburg Warren School District, where she has worked for 24 years. Hearn devotes herself to special needs children and adults in the community, and received the Lucy Young Outstanding Service Award for her time, love, and dedication to special needs children in her district. For more than 16 years, Hearn has volunteered as a coach and cheerleader for Special Olympics at the local and national levels and she has taken her Area 10 team to national competition three times. Hearn serves on the Board of Jacob’s Ladder, a private school that teaches life skills to special needs children. She also started a nutritional feeding program for Camp Silver Cloud, a summer day camp for mentally and physically challenged children. In addition, Hearn works with the Special Education Program in her school and trains students to work in food service to prepare them for jobs after graduation. One of the special education students that she trained is now employed in her cafeteria! Hearn has also served as a Team Leader for United Way and March of Dimes. An active member of the Mississippi SNA, Hearn is serving as an officer in her local chapter and attending conferences and seminars. She enjoys introducing new ideas to encourage students to participate in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs.

Jody Houston, SNS
Food Services Director, Corpus Christi Independent School District, Texas

Jody Houston, who has led the Corpus Christi child nutrition program for 29 years, demonstrates her exceptional commitment to children and community through various professional and volunteer initiatives. Houston has actively participated as a team leader in the Keep Every Youth in School (KEYS) program since its inception in 2008. As a KEYS volunteer, Houston joins community members who knock on doors of students who do not return to school after the first two weeks to help bring them back. For years, Houston has been a mentor to an at-risk student as part of the district’s GPS (Guidance + Partnership = Success) program. Houston’s team created an employee wellness initiative called Pounds Off Permanently (POP). The program, which Houston has managed for six years, promotes good nutrition and increased exercise through weekly newsletters, an exercise reporting and rewards program and a district-wide wellness challenge. Houston has served in numerous leadership positions, including vice president, president elect and president with the Texas SNA and Southwest Regional Director with SNA.

Samantha Ingram
Samson Elementary Child Nutrition Manager, Geneva County Schools, Ala.

Samantha “Mrs. Sam” Ingram loves children and loves to help them be healthy. She knows all of her students’ names and makes sure each one has breakfast in the classroom daily. She coordinated the “Blessings in a Bag” program providing students with healthy snacks for weekends. In cooperation with the school principal, Ingram organizes Active Lunch Day annually where students eat lunch outside and participate in physical activities, such as hula-hoop and jump rope. She collects food for the Cornerstone Food Bank, has cooked for 200 children at Vacation Bible School, and works weekends cooking at the concession stand for the recreation department. Her part-time job at a local grocery store gives her the opportunity to help WIC recipients choose nutritious foods for their children. After her son died from a brain tumor in 2014 at the age of thirteen, Ingram began raising awareness and funds for childhood cancer, supporting Children’s Hospital of Alabama in Birmingham and the Ronald McDonald House, which provides a supportive home for families and their children who are receiving medical treatment. Ingram sponsors the John-Dylan Ingram Scholarship at the local high school and raises money to donate to Samson High athletic department in honor of her son.

Suellen Smith
Zephyrhills High School Cafeteria Manager, Pasco County, Fla.

Under Suellen Smith’s leadership, the cafeteria at Zephyrhills High School has evolved into a school-based community center for students in need. Smith not only provides healthy meals, but also helps students with school supplies and attire and serves as a mentor to many. Smith maintains a two-room clothes closet in the school kitchen with an assortment of gowns, dresses, shirts, dress pants, sports jackets and shoes. Her cafeteria is a place where young women and men can be outfitted to go to the prom, homecoming, graduation or special events. Students stop by during lunch and Smith and her staff help them choose a dream outfit that they could not afford, giving them not only the gift of clothing, but also the gift of confidence and pride. Smith serves as a mentor to every young man or woman who walks through the door. She takes pride in them and serves as a life coach by helping each one put his or her best foot forward.

About the School Nutrition Foundation
As the philanthropic sister organization of the School Nutrition Association (SNA), the School Nutrition Foundation (SNF) is dedicated to securing financial resources for education, professional development, scholarships and research in school nutrition. SNF focuses on providing the resources that educate and empower SNA members to provide high-quality, low-cost meals to students across the nation to foster an environment where children achieve overall wellness and lifelong success.


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