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Contact: Diane Pratt-Heavner


SNA Recognizes National Award Recipients for School Lunch Hero Day


ARLINGTON, VA – In celebration of School Lunch Hero Day (Friday, May 7), the non-profit School Nutrition Association (SNA) recognizes the widespread efforts of school nutrition professionals who ensure students maintain access to healthy meals during COVID-19 remote and in-person learning. In communities nationwide, School Lunch Heroes have overcome tremendous challenges this past year, and SNA’s annual regional and national awards spotlight the exceptional work of school nutrition directors, managers and employees.

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. Krosoczka joined SNA President Reggie Ross, SNS, in announcing the national award recipients last night during the first-ever “Our Heroes: Celebrating the 2021 SNA Award Winners” virtual event.

“This year has been a challenging one for schools, families, businesses, farmers and beyond. We are so proud of the efforts shown by our members to continue feeding America’s children through it all,” said SNA President Reggie Ross, SNS. “School nutrition professionals across the country truly went above and beyond to ease some burdens felt by families and nourish children to support their learning. We congratulate all of our 2021 winners and commend all of the school nutrition heroes in our communities.”

Employees, managers and directors were nominated for awards at the state level, and those winners were considered for regional awards. Of those regional winners, the following were selected as SNA’s 2021 national award recipients based on their impressive efforts:

Christine Edelstein-Dodds from Vincent Igo Elementary School in Foxborough Public Schools, MA, has earned the Employee of the Year Award. Edelstein-Dodds is known for her theme day costumes, novelty socks and facemasks, and for writing whimsical and positive messages on fruit, much to the delight of students. She takes full advantage of available training and learning opportunities, continuously exceeding annual training hour requirements. Her supervisors say that she consistently applies new lessons she’s learned at training. Edelstein-Dodds brings valuable feedback, practical input and good suggestions to meetings and always strives to help others on the team.

Amber Ott-Underdown from Upper Bucks County Technical School, PA, has earned the Manager of the Year Award. Ott-Underdown, a graduate of the school where she now works, has consistently increased school lunch participation each year, in part by converting to more scratch cooking. Her monthly “Try It Tuesdays” has become a favorite day where students try a small portion of a new scratch-made item. She also mentors her school’s culinary students. She involves them in the catering program she developed, training them in the culinary arts while preparing food for school events. This school year, she planned and implemented a food truck after the school secured grants and sponsors to fund the truck. Ott-Underdown staffed it with vocational students, overseeing their efforts on everything from lighting maintenance, exterior graphics and diesel mechanical work to preparing and serving the food. Ott-Underdown teaches her students about costs and quality control, menu planning/preparation, event execution and evaluation.

Anna Apoian, MPA, RD, SNS, from Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District, CA, has earned the Director of the Year Award. When the pandemic hit, Apoian led her team in re-opening schools for meal distribution and was first to start pantry-style meal distribution at two drive up locations with assistance from school and community leaders. Apoian started an “Extra Eats” program that helped the community when supermarket shelves were sparse. Those efforts also helped prevent future layoffs of her staff by securing more federal and state revenue. Prior to the pandemic at a previous district, she and her team installed deli bars for made-to-order sandwiches and salads, a panini room for hot sandwiches and a pizza oven where students could see the pizza being baked. Apoian creates new recipes to be more inclusive of students’ special dietary restrictions, including no-bake energy bites for a vegan meal entrée and her Green Monster smoothie. Apoian has also hired parent-to-parent nutrition educators, created a sustaining employee wellness program, provided physical activity trainings for elementary teachers by professional trainers and began Active Recess at eight elementary school sites.

SNA is also recognizing the following regional award winners.

Employee of the Year:
Mideast:  Marcia Rosa, Elkton High School, Maryland
Midwest:  Debra Root, Falcon Heights Elementary School, Minnesota
Northeast: Christine Edelstein-Dodds, Vincent M. Igo Elementary School, Massachusetts (National Winner)
Southeast: Jennifer Graham, Matthew Arthur Elementary School, Georgia
West: Anna King, Spring City Elementary School, Utah

Manager of the Year:
Mideast: Tina Callahan, Edison Elementary School, Indiana
Midwest: Allison Grabow, Will-Moore Elementary School, North Dakota
Northeast: Amber Ott-Underdown, Upper Bucks County Technical School, Pennsylvania (National Winner)
Southeast: Starr Grimes, Navarre High School, Florida
West: Kamie Boren, Silver Ridge Elementary School, Utah

Director of the Year:
Mideast: Kelly Minnick, SNS, ESC of the Western Reserve, Ohio
Midwest: Stacy Koppen, MS, RD, SNS, Saint Paul Public Schools, Minnesota
Northeast: Curtistine Walker, M.Ed, Pittsburgh Public Schools, Pennsylvania
Southeast: Melinda Bonner, MBA, RD, SNS, Hoover City Schools, Alabama
Southwest: Nadine Mann, PhD, RD, LDN, East Baton Rouge Parish School System, Louisiana
West: Anna Apoian, MPA, RD, SNS, Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District, California (National Winner)

Nominees, nominators, state leaders, Board of Directors, Leadership Development Committee and Back to School Summit attendees joined Ross and Krosoczka to celebrate the accomplishments of this year’s SNA award winners at the “Our Heroes” virtual event.

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

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