Maria Eunice, director of food & nutrition services for the Alachua County Public Schools in Florida, has been named recipient of the Golden School Foodservice Director of the Year Award, the highest honor in the 2021 FAME (Foodservice Achievement Management Excellence) Awards competition for school nutrition professionals, sponsored by Basic American Foods. Other 2021 FAME recipients include Adam Russo, director of school food and nutrition services for the Prince William County (PWC) Public Schools in Virginia (Silver Leadership Award); Richard Miles, coordinator of nutrition & wellness at the Seminole County Public Schools in Florida (Silver Spirit Award); and Megan Cook, director of child nutrition at the Corona-Norco USD in California (Silver Rising Star Award).
Eunice, who took over leadership of the Alachua County Schools foodservice program in 2006, has implemented a number of major initiatives, including the “Your Choice Fresh” brand that promotes a healthy “for students, by students” dining environment with heightened presentation and customer service, on-trend serving lines and recyclable packaging. She has doubled the program budget since she took over from $11 million to $22 million, grown the summer program from 32 to 93 sites and boosted breakfast participation 264% and lunch participation 369%. During the COVID-19 crisis, Alachua County Food and Nutrition Services operated 77 locations and served over 2.6 million meals between March 30th and August 30th.
Russo’s program at PWC grew meal participation in all categories, especially breakfast (approximately 6,000 more a day) and supper (165,000 more a year). During the pandemic, his program maintained his entire school nutrition workforce by re-conceptualizing the Summer Food Service and Child and Adult Care Food Program menu patterns to provide bulk grocery items to families for multiple days at a time, dramatically increasing the number of students served from 3,000 to 30,000.
At Corona-Norco USD, Cook opened two brand new school sites, re-modernized four kitchens, expanded the Child Nutrition Service Program to include CEP and Breakfast After the Bell, added an a la carte snack program at the secondary schools that increased revenue by $400,000 during the 2019-2020 school year and developed a partnership with the City of Corona Parks & Recreation Services to expand the Seamless Summer Program to serve meals every day. When Corona-Norco schools closed on March 13th, her department was able to fully implement its new Emergency Feeding Program three days later.
The FAME Awards, in which Food Management participates in the judging, have recognized outstanding heroes in K-12 foodservice who raise industry standards by tackling challenges and making a difference within their school districts and communities for over 30 years. The 32nd annual FAME Awards ceremony will be held virtually during the School Nutrition Industry Conference on January 14, 2021. For more information, go to https://www.baffoodservice.com/fame-awards.