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Contact: Diane Pratt-Heavner
SNA Announces National Award Winners for School Lunch Hero Day
ARLINGTON, VA – In celebration of School Lunch Hero Day (Friday, May 1), the non-profit School Nutrition Association (SNA) recognizes the widespread efforts of school nutrition professionals across the country to ensure needy students have access to healthy meals during COVID-19 school closures. Among those frontline heroes, SNA is recognizing an exceptional school nutrition director, manager and employee as winners of the Association’s annual national award program. SNA’s national and regional award winners, along with the thousands of school nutrition professionals serving students through the pandemic, exemplify what it means to be a school lunch hero in 2020.
While in-school celebrations will not take place this year due to school closures, nothing will stop students and communities from celebrating school nutrition professionals on May 1. SNA continues to work with Jarrett J. Krosoczka, author and illustrator of the popular LUNCH LADY graphic novel series, and Random House Children’s Books, to celebrate America’s school nutrition professionals through School Lunch Hero Day.
“We are seeing heroic and selfless acts of school nutrition professionals across the country as they continue to feed our children with compassion during this time of great need,” said SNA President Gay Anderson, SNS. “We are proud to recognize outstanding award winners each year, but this year it’s important to celebrate the phenomenal efforts of all of our members on the frontlines and behind the scenes feeding students.”
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 2020 national award recipients based on their amazing efforts:
Martha Pellegrino from Blackstone Valley Tech (BVT) in Blackstone Valley Technical Regional School District, MA, has earned the Employee of the Year. Pellegrino prioritizes food safety and the health of her students, providing them with nutrition counseling and serving as a liaison for parents, nurses, counselors and food service staff to accommodate students’ dietary needs. She promotes physical and nutrition education, working with students to teach them how to prepare healthy meals and snacks. She also guides students in their food choices, using daily lunch menus to explain nutrient analysis, and seeks their menu suggestions to ensure meals are well received. Pellegrino has created a wellness blog, providing a wealth of information on nutrition, fitness and health related topics, and helps plan and execute the annual Wellness Fair. She secured a grant to purchase mobile food carts and helped initiate a breakfast cart program to increase breakfast participation. Pellegrino oversees the daily activity of the school food service program, from compliance to participation, and monitors regulatory changes that can impact operations.
Heather Bladesfrom Spring Run Elementary in Chesterfield County Public Schools, VA has earned the Manager of the Year Award. Known for creating an inviting and friendly atmosphere in the cafeteria, Blades decorates her serving lines for seasons and special theme days. She goes out of her way to show that each child is special, sharing one-on-one conversation and eating lunch with a different student each day. Blades helped bring to life exciting initiatives, including “Rev Your Bev,” infusing fresh fruit and herbs in water to boost flavor without calories. She was instrumental in adding a smoothie bike in the cafeteria, allowing students to blend their own smoothies by powering the pedals. Blades helped teach physical education students nutrition lessons on making healthy choices and building well-balanced lunch trays. Blades helped lead the “Crunch Heard ‘Round the Commonwealth” event in which students and staff were encouraged to simultaneously bite into Virginia-grown apples. She coordinated with local apple growers and helped live stream the event. Her positive energy, enthusiasm for her job and “everlasting smile” are noticed by all who work in her kitchen.
Annette Hendrickx Derouin, Director of Food and Nutrition Services for Willmar Public Schools, MN, has earned the Director of the Year Award. With 24 years of school nutrition experience, Derouin is entrusted as foodservice director for Willmar Public Schools, New London-Spicer Public Schools, Montevideo Public Schools and the Community Christian School. Derouin was one of the first directors in Minnesota to offer a Farm to School program. She has worked with state and community groups and local farmers to develop recipes, menus, procurement tools and documents on how growers can interact with students and staff to show how local food is produced. Derouin’s leadership and financial management skills have grown fund balances exponentially in the districts she serves, allowing for kitchen equipment updates, increased scratch cooking and menu expansion. A true mentor, Derouin has expanded staff development opportunities and improved the onboarding process. School nutrition professionals statewide look to her for guidance and support on best practices. For 13 years, she’s conducted regional workshops for upwards of 200 professionals. She has written manuals on HACCP/School Food Safety, Farm to School and Standardized Recipes – shared with more than 100 Minnesota schools.
SNA is also recognizing the following regional award winners.
Employee of the Year:
Mideast: Amanda Wimer, Lewis County Schools, West Virginia
Midwest: Rachel Gueningsman, MACCRAY Public Schools, Minnesota Northeast: Martha Pellegrino, Blackstone Valley Vocational Regional School District, Massachusetts (National Winner)
Southeast: Brittany Jones, Henry County Public Schools, Kentucky
Southwest: Tammy Belaire, St. Martin Parish School Board, Louisiana
West: Karmen Ivory, North Sanpete School District, Utah
Manager of the Year:
Mideast: Susan Parsons, Raleigh County Schools, West Virginia Midwest: Michelle Durenberger, Independent School District 196, Minnesota
Northeast: Jane Rice, Foxborough Public Schools, Massachusetts
Northwest: Linda Harrelson, Joint School District #171, Idaho Southeast: Heather Blades, Chesterfield County Public Schools, Virginia (National Winner)
Southwest: Christi Brown, Adams 12 Five Star Schools, Colorado
West: Jeannette Turpin, North Sanpete School District, Utah
Director of the Year:
Mideast: Jessica Shelly, Cincinnati Public Schools, Ohio Midwest: Annette Hendrickx Derouin, Willmar Public Schools, Minnesota (National Winner)
Northeast: Susan Murray, Nauset Public Schools, Massachusetts
Northwest: Amy Rouse, Fairbanks North Star Borough School District, Alaska Southeast: Rhonda Huffman, Roanoke County Public Schools, Virginia
Southwest: Terri Jo Markham, Chanute Public Schools, Kansas
West: Ginger Jones, Deming Public Schools, New Mexico
About School Nutrition Association:
The School Nutrition Association (SNA) is a national, non-profit professional organization representing more than 55,000 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