How long have you been an SNA member, and what was your favorite national conference destination?

I have been a member of SNA—both national and state—for 20 years. I’ve attended 10 Annual National Conferences, and my favorite was in San Antonio, Texas, because of its rich, cultural history.

What motivated you to choose this profession?

I started as a substitute cook and fell in love with the job. Being in school nutrition gives me an opportunity to create a positive impact in my community. I took every opportunity and promotion that was offered to me and the rest is history. My favorite area of responsibility is training my staff on how they can provide our students with the best possible lunchroom experience. I love kids and love to feed them. It makes me so happy when I see them enjoy the break-fasts and lunches that we serve them!

What is one thing that you can’t live without right now?

My Brooks running shoes—everywhere I go, they always go with me! In fact, if marathon walking was turned into an Olympic sport, I’d earn a medal!

What’s your favorite way to spend a day off?

I’d spend much of it with my family—we all have crazy schedules and rarely get to spend time all together. A perfect start would be to have three meals together, cooking, laughing and trying new foods. Then we might do some kind of activity, such as building furniture or working in the garden— my personal happy place.

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

Take your time. All good things are worth waiting for. And the best advice I’ve ever been given is not to sweat the things I cannot control.

What was your best vacation, and what’s still on the bucket list?

My favorite vacation was a family trip to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. It was our first family trip that wasn’t school- or work-related. We chose Pigeon Forge because it was close, which meant more time to explore the town and restaurants and not be in a vehicle for hours. The trip was filled with forever memories. One bucket-list destination for me is Jerusalem, because of its amazing history.

Name three foods you could happily subsist on if marooned on a desert island with a lifetime supply.

Rice, coconut and watermelon. These foods remind me of my Filipino heritage. We use rice in every meal and add coconut to make a richer and more flavorful dish. And what’s better than an in-season sweet watermelon on a hot summer day?

What is the strangest food you’ve ever tried?

Once when I was in the Philippines, I tried deep-fried bugs. I won’t ever eat them again!

If a genie granted you three wishes, what would they be?

First, I want to age gracefully. Second, I’d ask to stay healthy. My third wish would be to end world hunger.


MercedesRutherford (1)

Mercedes Rutherford

Food Service Director

Pulaski County, Kentucky

Pulaski County (KY.) Schools