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Leah Schmidt heads the school nutrition department for the St Joseph School District in Missouri
<p>Leah Schmidt heads the school nutrition department for the St. Joseph School District in Missouri.</p>

Leah Schmidt wins top FAME honor

St. Joseph Schools foodservice director nets 2016 Golden School Foodservice Director of the Year Award in annual competition.

Leah Schmidt, food service director for the St. Joseph School District in Missouri, has been named the winner of the 2016 Golden School Foodservice Director of the Year Award, the most prestigious honor awarded by the Foodservice Achievement Management Excellence (FAME) Awards competition. The other winners were…

Silver Leadership Award: Ken Yant, MBA, FMP, director, Gwinnett County Public Schools, Suwanee, Ga.
Silver Spirit Award: Heather D’Ambrosi, MS, RD, team leader-nutrition specialist, Hillsborough County Public Schools, Tampa, Fla.
Silver Special Achievement Award:  Michelle Curry, director of food and nutrition, South Pasadena USD, South Pasadena, Calif.
Silver Rising Star Award: Tamara Earl, SNS, child nutrition supervisor, Mason City Schools, Mason, Ohio.
Silver Friend of Child Nutrition:  Linda Vento, sales representative, Concept Food Sales, Pittsburgh, Penn.
Gertrude Applebaum Lifetime Achievement Award: Dorothy Pannell-Martin, BS, MA,  president, SFS21, LLC, Aiken, S.C.

When Schmidt began her role as director in her district, it served only 5500 daily meals. Today the nutrition program has serves 10,000 meals daily, an increase of 82 percent. She developed an in-house proposal to maintain a self-operated nutrition program that included a nutrition education coordinator, a dedicated employee to manage the application process for free and reduced meals and a catering coordinator. The implementation of these positions in the nutrition program aided in classroom instruction and employee counseling, quicker access to meals for at-risk students and better service of nutrition needs for administration school board and schools across the entire district.

Schmidt addressed the need for nutritionally compliant menus while considering the demands of her student clientele. She surveyed students and found selections such as wrap sandwiches, chicken tetrazzini and daily chef salad options were keys to student participation. She also worked to convince her district to add nutrition services applications in the registration and enrollment process, which led to an increased number of at-risk students being served in the district.

Schmidt has served as the president of both the Missouri and national School Nutrition Association (SNA) organizations. During her service in Missouri, she convened a Commodity Advisory Committee and participated as a member. Today, Missouri’s commodity program is progressive and provides options, tools and customer service to districts across the entire state. The assistant director of commodities serves as the ACDA president.

A past winner of a national FAME Award, Schmidt was also the 2015 SNA National Food Service Director of the Year and has also received the Kansas City Healthy Kids Shining Star Award.

For 27 years the FAME Awards have been honoring school nutrition professionals who raise industry standards by tackling challenges within their school districts and communities.

The 2016 FAME Awards are sponsored by Basic American Foods, Schwan’s Food Service, Inc. and Tyson Foods, Inc. They will be presented at a ceremony on January 17, 2016 at the Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina, the site of the 2016 SNA School Nutrition Industry Conference.

FAME event tickets can be obtained by visiting

TAGS: K-12 Schools
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