Please share a little of your K-12 school nutrition journey.

As one of the warehouse delivery drivers in another California school district, I loved it when the child nutrition department assignment came up in rotation. I would ask questions and pay attention to what the site staff were doing. They taught me how to cook in bulk, pick out fruits and vegetables, understand the different components of a reimbursable meal and so on. When that district built a child nutrition-specific warehouse, with its own full-time driver, I jumped at the opportunity to make a lateral move. A few years later, after the installation of a 15,000-sq.-ft. freezer to allow the district to receive direct shipments, I dove in to help with the logistics of its management. Direct ordering led to my creating menus, which led to improving ordering efficiency and then management of commodities. All along, I was reading USDA’s child nutrition web pages to learn more about the federal programs—I had so many questions and our state agency wasn’t holding training workshops on the answers back then.

Eventually, all my experience and personal learning motivated me to pursue a position as a district director. I knew I was qualified—and that I was willing to keep learning. I’ve been a member of California SNA for 17 years and a national member for 15 years.

Best advice you’ve ever received?

My director told me I should take a certification in food safety class.

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

Stay inquisitive. Every experience has a lesson, and you can put the most valuable lessons in a box to save for later.

If it were an Olympic sport, I would earn a medal in…

Human resources skills! It’s an art to be able to work with your staff through situations that would normally require a meeting with their union rep or the district’s HR director.

What was your best vacation and what is still a bucket-list destination?

The best was Orange Beach in Alabama—intended to be a short stop on the way to New Orleans. But it was everything, and I changed my plans and spent the whole trip there. White sands, clear water—absolutely beautiful. I have visited a lot of beaches, and this tops the list! I’m a cruiser, and my bucket list includes one through the Panama Canal.

If a genie granted you three wishes, what would you request?

First, to go back in time and have a conversation with my mother when she was 45 to 50 years old. Second, to gain the ability to spread happiness to strangers. And finally, to heal my aching knees!

Among current celebrities and historical figures, whom would you invite to a dream dinner party?

I would invite actresses Diahann Carroll and Marla Gibbs, for their style, witty personalities and perseverance. I’d also ask author Terry McMillan, as I relate to her novels about the experiences of Black women. Finally, inspirational poet and author Maya Angelou, whose life experiences and passion were a part of everything she did.

Johnna Jenkins

Johnna Jenkins

Director of Child Nutrition Services

Valley Center-Pauma Unified School District, California