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Contact: Diane Pratt-Heavner
School Nutrition Association Recognizes Award Recipients
ARLINGTON, VA – In celebration of School Lunch Hero Day (Friday, May 6), the national, non-profit School Nutrition Association (SNA) recognizes the widespread efforts of school nutrition professionals across the country who ensure all students have access to healthy meals.
School Lunch Hero Day (SLHD) is a chance to stop and recognize the year-round efforts of school nutrition professionals. Whether creating special menu items and decorating the cafeteria for spirit days or increasing opportunities for children to be nourished and being a supportive, friendly face in the lunch line, these women and men go above and beyond.
“Supply chain issues and staffing shortages have presented persistent challenges for school nutrition professionals, but it does not stop them from having a positive impact on their students and ensuring all who go through their cafeteria lines get a nutritious meal,” said SNA President Beth Wallace, MBA, SNS. “The dedication shown by these school lunch heroes during the last two years of the pandemic has been astounding and inspiring.”
This year marks the 10th anniversary of School Lunch Hero Day. SNA has teamed up with Jarrett J. Krosoczka, author and illustrator of the popular LUNCH LADY graphic novel series, and Random House Children’s Books, to celebrate all of America’s school nutrition professionals. This year also marks the return of the Lunch Lady graphic novels which are being re-released in new, full-color editions along with full-cast audio books featuring Kate Flannery from The Office.
School nutrition employees, managers and directors were nominated for awards at the state level, and those winners were considered for awards within seven regions across the country. Of those regional winners, the following were selected as SNA’s 2022 national award recipients:
Stephanie Sheley, cook at Holmen High School in the School District of Holmen, Wisconsin, has earned the National Employee of the Year Award.
Stephanie Sheley has been described as creative, always smiling and a good mentor. She has been instrumental in designing the school’s premium Grab-n-Go Salads. Offering everything from Chicken Bacon Ranch salad to Cranberry Walnut Blue Cheese salad, she’s raised the bar on typical school cafeteria menus. The salad bar she designed for the high school rivals any restaurant in the area. Parents frequently tell school employees how much their students love it.
But Stephanie Sheley is much more than just the person behind amazing salads. She has an infectious personality – her line is often the longest when she serves lunch because the kids want to see her. She makes it a point to learn their names and knows most of the 1,200 students, creating positive relationships with so many by doing little things to make them feel special. When one of her special needs students comes to the cafeteria, he insists on going through Sheley’s line so they can do a special little dance together.
Sharon Owensby, SNS, Catering Manager at Lee’s Summit High School in Lee’s Summit R-7 School District, Missouri, has earned the National Manager of the Year Award.
Sharon Owensby stepped up when the COVID pandemic closed schools. She and the team worked hard to ensure all the children in the community were fed, setting up the high school for curbside operations. She created flyers to hand out with meals, encouraging parents to share information on the COVID meal service with other families. Her efforts during this time were recently acknowledged with the Character Award of Perseverance at the Mayor’s Breakfast in Lee’s Summit. Before serving as the district’s catering manager, Owensby held multiple positions during her 13 year career with the district.
Sharon Owensby always puts the students first. She seeks their input on menu items and tries to incorporate foods they request, including adding vegetable cups, bento boxes, hummus and most recently, a coffee bar in the school. She encourages staff members to get to know students by name and greet them with smiles.
Robert Rolfe, School Nutrition Director for Henderson County Public Schools, North Carolina, has earned the National Director of the Year Award.
Robert Rolfe has been an immediate asset to the team since starting with Henderson County Public Schools. In 2017, he helped roll out a summer meals program that now serves students at several school sites and from two buses with 22 “Meals on the Bus” stops in the community. During the summer of 2020, the district had multiple school sites open and expanded its “Meals on the Bus” routes to feed students during the pandemic.
By teaming up with a local organization, Rolfe encouraged composting at six of the district’s elementary schools. The district works with the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program and when the budget allows, Rolfe encourages an introduction of unconventional fruits and vegetables to the elementary students.
Rolfe understands the importance of developing a team that is knowledgeable about child nutrition. He keeps managers updated on information needed to do their best job. He understands the importance of retaining good employees and has implemented a bonus system as well as reimbursement for slip resistant shoes. Rolfe is also happy to show new employees new or better ways to make their job easier.
SNA is also recognizing these regional award winners:
Employee of the Year:
Mideast: Jennifer Lynn Foraker, Lake Forest Schools, DE
Midwest: Stephanie Sheley, School District of Holmen, WI (National Winner)
Northeast: Angela Fagan, York Public Schools, ME
Southeast: Annie Davis, Lenoir County Public Schools, NC
Northwest: Lori Dyson, Estacada School District, OR
West: Joni Delgado, Morongo Unified School District, CA
Manager of the Year:
Mideast: Amy Uecker, West Clermont Local School District, OH
Midwest: Sharon Owensby, SNS, Lee’s Summit R-7 School District, MO (National Winner)
Northeast: Deb Timek, Meriden Public Schools, CT
Southeast: Bonnie Gassett, Virginia Beach City Public Schools, VA
Southwest: Crystal Jo Bruns, RE-1 Valley Schools District, CO
Northwest: Erika Santana, Highline Public Schools, WA
West: LaShawn Bray, Hesperia School District, Victorville, CA
Director of the Year:
Mideast: Lori McKean Brace, Wapakoneta City Schools, OH
Midwest: Coni Dobbels, Davenport Community School District, IA
Northeast: Allison Kimmel, Marion Center Area School District, PA
Southeast: Robert Rolfe, Henderson County Public Schools, NC (National Winner)
Southwest: Danielle Bock, SNS, Greeley-Evans Weld County School District 6, CO
Northwest: Jessa Youngers, Great Falls Public Schools, MT
West: Lisa Thrower, Yuma School District One, AZ
On May 2, the accomplishments of all this year’s SNA award winners were recognized during an online awards ceremony. All of the winners will also be recognized in a special publication and promoted in SNA’s annual SLHD social media campaign on Facebook.com/TrayTalk and TrayTalk.org.
About School Nutrition Association:
The School Nutrition Association (SNA) is a national, non-profit professional organization representing 50,000 school nutrition professionals across the country. Founded in 1946, SNA and its members are dedicated to making healthy school meals and nutrition education available to all students. For more information on school meals, visit www.SchoolNutrition.org/SchoolMeals.
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