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Contact: Diane Pratt-Heavner


SNA Celebrates National Award Winners for School Lunch Hero Day (Fri. May 3)


ARLINGTON, VA – In preparation for School Lunch Hero Day, the non-profit School Nutrition Association (SNA) has announced winners of their annual national awards recognizing an exceptional school nutrition director, manager and employee for their efforts. This Friday, May 3, schools nationwide will once again celebrate all school nutrition heroes for their dedication to expanding access to nutritious school meals and show their appreciation through decorations, costumes, events and other forms of recognition.

The three SNA national award winners, along with their peers who have been recognized with regional awards, exemplify exactly what it means to be a school lunch hero in 2019. 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 all of America’s school nutrition professionals through School Lunch Hero Day.

“With passion to provide students with healthy and affordable school meals, school nutrition professionals have an unmatched dedication and commitment,” said SNA President Gay Anderson, SNS. “The pool of nominees for our SNA awards hail from districts large and small, serving students in every corner of this country. School nutrition professionals are making a positive difference in the lives of students in school and in their communities and we are proud to recognize their outstanding efforts each year.”

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 2019 national award recipients based on their amazing efforts:

Mary LaMarche from Bel Air Elementary School in Harford County Schools, MD, has earned the Employee of the Year Award. Known for her creativity and customer service skills, LaMarche is popular among students and staff alike. Always thinking of ways to promote the school meal program at Bel Air Elementary, LaMarche created a dedicated Instagram account, posting photos of fresh fruits and vegetables, promotional events, entrée meals and other features. LaMarche also organized and hosted a free food show during back to school night, where parents, students and siblings were invited into the cafeteria to sample fresh fruits and vegetables, popular hot entrée items and favorite sandwiches. To gather student feedback, she offers a comment box, publishes daily menus on her themed bulletin board and encourages sampling of new menu options. An integral part of the planning and execution of annual meetings and events, LaMarche spearheads many of her local SNA events. She helps host the annual Valentine’s Sweetheart Breakfast, organizes the annual toy drive, coordinates her department to march in the town Christmas parade and has handed out treats at the local Trunk or Treat in the past. LaMarche also works with the district’s Future Links program for high-functioning special needs adult students, teaching them career skills and making them feel connected to the school community.

Robin Dake from McMinn County High School in McMinn County School System, TN has earned the Manager of the Year Award. As the manager of the district’s largest high school cafeteria, Dake keeps involved with the ever-changing needs of her students. Along with her county’s other high school, she surveyed students to improve satisfaction – resulting in an updated salad bar, new monthly pizza offering and additional student-requested menu items like a Philly cheesesteak sandwich, biscuits for breakfast, healthy a la carte drink offerings and macaroni and cheese. She incorporated an after-school snack program this past fall, which now serves over 1,000 snacks every month to high school students who play sports or belong to school clubs. She increased breakfast participation by 13 percent by adding another breakfast serving location at another end of the school. Dake led a committee of students and staff to work with a consultant developing a renovation plan for the cafeteria. The project resulted in increased seating and a college café atmosphere with a modern look and created a better flow through a previously congested serving line. Dake has personally trained 23 professionals, two of whom have gone on to manage their own school cafeteria, and she’s coached 15 substitute cooks to permanent positions. She has been called a pioneer for her district, attending the Tennessee School Nutrition Association (TSNA) Culinary Academy in order to learn new skills to bring back to staff. Inspired through her example, more than 60 percent of the district managers now attend the TSNA Culinary Academy and Dake has since presented in-service training for over 140 staff members.

Becky Domokos-Bays, Ph.D, RD, SNS, School Nutrition Services Director for Loudoun County Public Schools, VA, has earned the Director of the Year Award. During her 25-year tenure in school nutrition, Domokos-Bays has helped implement a variety of programs, including supper, after school snacks, summer feeding and fresh fruit and vegetable, and created alternative breakfast options such as Breakfast in the Classroom and Breakfast After the Bell. Serving as director at LCPS for the past five years, Domokos-Bays started a successful summer meal program that served over 49,000 students during the summer of 2018 alone. Her hire of a marketing coordinator has greatly strengthened the communication link between the school nutrition department and parents. Working with the school board, Domokos-Bays eliminated the reduced price fee for meals in her first year, increasing participating from 65 percent to 85 percent. She has incorporated more locally sourced foods on the menu, upgraded school nutrition technology in all 92 schools, provided shoes and chef coats to 385 staff members and is now working to improve the dining experience in middle schools. One of her greatest accomplishments at LCPS, the Farm to School (F2S) program has grown to roughly 52 active school gardens. Domokos-Bays provides staff with the highest levels of education and training opportunities and her program boasts an impressive staff retention rate of 95 percent among district managers. She has presented at several state and national conferences, always providing an exemplary example in school nutrition and food service.

SNA is also recognizing the following regional award winners. National, regional and state level award winners will all be honored in July during the Red Carpet Awards Ceremony at the School Nutrition Association’s Annual National Conference in St. Louis, MO.

Employee of the Year:
Mideast: Mary LaMarche, Harford County Public Schools, Maryland (National Winner)
Midwest: Gwen Daly, Anoka-Hennepin School District, Minnesota
Northeast: Leah Perry, Chelmsford School District, Massachusetts
Southeast: Shirley Price, Lincoln County School District, Mississippi
Southwest: Jeannine Flory, Jefferson County North Unified School District, Kansas
West: Carey Powell, Davis County Schools, Utah

Manager of the Year:
Mideast: Julie Kirby, Seaford School District, Delaware
Midwest: Jessica Pena, Mounds View Public School District 621, Minnesota
Northeast: Sandra Hillson, Lincoln Public Schools, Massachusetts
Northwest: Regina Coleman, Tacoma Public Schools, Washington
Southeast: Robin Dake, McMinn County School System, Tennessee (National Winner)
West: Jennifer Berglund, Ogden School District, Utah

Director of the Year:
Mideast: Jeni Lange, Mentor Public Schools, Ohio
Midwest: Janelle Peterson, Rapid City Area School District, South Dakota
Northeast: Lori McCoy, Colonial School District, Pennsylvania
Northwest: Adrianne Schwartz, Juneau School District, Alaska
Southeast: Becky Domokos-Bays, Loudoun County Public Schools, Virginia (National Winner)
Southwest: Elaine Harris, Paola Unified School District 368, Kansas
West: Robert Lewis, El Monte City School District, California

About School Nutrition Association: 
The School Nutrition Association (SNA) is a national, non-profit professional organization representing 58,000 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

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