The School Nutrition Foundation (SNF) has announced its 2015 School Nutrition Heroes, five school nutrition professionals being recognized for their dedication to expanding access to healthy school meals and serving the needs of their communities.They are...
Coletta Hines-Newell, SNS, director of food services for Arlington Heights (Ill.) School District 25;
Jill Kidd, MS, RD, SNS, director of nutrition services for Pueblo (Col.) City Schools;
Cathy Potter, cafeteria server/helper at Maryville (Tenn.) City Schools;
Robert Rusan, district chef for Maplewood Richmond Heights (Mo.) School District;
Nancy Younglove, food service director for North Rose-Wolcott (N.Y.) Central Schools.
“The 2015 School Nutrition Heroes are an inspiration to us all,” says School Nutrition Association (SNA) CEO Patti Montague, CAE. “As schools nationwide seek new ways to meet the nutritional needs of students, so they are better prepared to succeed in the classroom, these Heroes are leading by example. We can all learn from their passion, dedication to their communities and willingness to go above and beyond to improve the health and well-being of the students they serve."
The five individuals will be recognized at SNF’s Celebration of School Nutrition Heroes during SNA’s 43rd Legislative Action Conference in Washington.
“Too often, the remarkable work of school nutrition professionals—both behind the lunch counter and out in the community—goes unnoticed,” adds Montague. “This special event is about bringing long overdue attention to School Nutrition Heroes, who are making a difference across the country.”
Here are the achievements for which each of the 2015 School Nutrition Heroes is being recognized, according to an SNF news release...
Along with two colleagues, Hines-Newell started the Northern Illinois Purchasing Cooperative in 1995 with just 11 districts. Today the cooperative buying group has over 77 districts that work together to submit bids for food, supplies, bread and milk. Hines-Newell serves voluntarily as a vice president for the cooperative. She won a Nutrition Education and Training award in Illinois for the “I Tried a Little” program, which focused on getting students to try fruits and vegetables. She also started a Food Around the World reading program. Hines-Newell has been honored by the Illinois State Board of Education twice with Those Who Excel awards. She works with a special education cooperative to provide student training jobs and currently has students with special needs working in many of her kitchens. Hines-Newell has been an active member of the Illinois School Nutrition Association and has served on their legislative committee for many years. In recent years she has started a charity called Many Hands Many Blessings with a mission to raise funds for local food banks.
Kidd has been a leader in public policy and legislative activities in Colorado for 16 years. Her efforts have supported legislation that provides $2.4 million annually in state funding for meal programs as well as legislation that expands access to school meals for the children of Colorado. Approximately 32,000 students in pre-school to 5th grade no longer have to pay the reduced price at lunch and close to 63,000 K–12 students no longer pay the reduced price for breakfast. With Kidd's help, the school districts in Colorado have obtained over $100 million in state funding for meal programs since 2001 and have successfully advocated for needed improvements in the Colorado Food Distribution Program. Kidd's involvement in public policy and legislation has included helping to set the legislative agenda for the Colorado SNA, testifying, working with legislators and teaching SNA members how to advocate for school nutrition programs. Through her efforts Colorado SNA members are confident and comfortable testifying and communicating with legislators at both the state and federal level.
Potter established Heaven Sent Home, which has two shelters for the homeless. The emergency shelters, which opened in 2003, provide protection for men, women, and children who are displaced and/or abused and gives them a second chance. The program, which has served over 3,000 people, gives residents a clean and safe home, where they learn independent living skills and receive counseling. Some are suffering from addiction, some are escaping domestic situations at home, and some have lost jobs and are unable to pay rent. The shelters are “a helping hand up to people in need.” They are entirely operated by volunteers. No staff is paid and the homes receive no government funding. Potter is committed to Heaven Sent Home out of love and faith. Not only does she create meal programs for the shelters and coordinate holiday dinners for the needy, she also spearheads gift collecting and fundraising to support disadvantaged families in the community.
One could say “cooking” is in Rusan’s genes. He comes from a three-generation catering service that started with his grandmother. But Rusan does more than “cook.” He is committed to teaching others about food and nutrition. He has started a program, called Teen Kitchen, in which he teaches apprenticeship students all the facets of gardening, harvesting, cleaning and cooking. Each school in the district has a garden and Rusan has a chicken coop where students participate in active learning. The middle school has a beehive from which the students collect honey, which Rusan uses as a sugar substitute in the school kitchen. Students learn firsthand about the specific foods in the garden, see how the foods are used in the kitchen, and learn how to prepare healthy meals for themselves and their families. In addition to food from the school garden, fresh produce and select meats from local farmers are purchased to use in preparing student meals. Rusan has worked with Share Our Strength Cooking Matters teaching cooking to daycare operators. He participates in the district’s in-house food pantry, Weekend on Wheels, which provides home delivery of nutritious food packages to feed close to 100 families every weekend throughout the school year. He also participates in a similar program at his church, Unity United Methodist.
Younglove is the founder and executive director of the Cougar Cupboard, Inc., an emergency food pantry located on the North Rose-Wolcott campus. The program, which began in September 2012, was created when Younglove noticed a steady increase of students qualifying for free and reduced-price meals. The number of applications went from about three a month to two, three or four daily. The district where Younglove works serves a low-income, rural, and often migrant population. While the district offered national breakfast and lunch programs, along with an afterschool supper program, a large summer meals program and weekend “backpack” meal program, Younglove observed that children—especially at the high school—still were hungry. She started Cougar Cupboard as a student activity club where students could volunteer. Cougar Cupboard became a not-for-profit organization so that tax-deductible donations could be accepted in support of the food pantry. It is a partner with Foodlink of Rochester and the Food Bank of Southern Tier, both agencies of Feeding America, which is using Cougar Cupboard as a model for in-school pantry programs across New York State. Cougar Cupboard has expanded its services by sponsoring mobile food pantries for Foodlink of Rochester. These community food distributions provide over 4,000 pounds of food each month to feed over 500 people. In addition to operating the pantry, Younglove also advocates at local, state and federal levels on the elimination of childhood hunger using Cougar Cupboard’s mission “to eliminate childhood hunger one child at a time by providing food for the body and mind with dignity and respect.”
SNF is the philanthropic sister organization of the SNA and is dedicated to securing financial resources for education, professional development, scholarships and research in school nutrition. SNF focuses on providing the resources that educate and empower SNA members to provide high-quality, low-cost meals to students across the nation to foster an environment where children achieve overall wellness and lifelong success.