Mark Ward 0000-00-00 00:00:00
Two FAME winners reflect on the people and passions that have inspired them to success. Meet Julia Bauscher Need proof that the school nutrition profession provides ample opportunities for upward mobility? Look no further than the career of Julia Bauscher, SNS, 2012 winner of the FAME Golden School Foodservice Director of the Year Award. Bauscher was drawn, as a college student, to the possibilities of a career in the foodservice industry; after graduation, she joined a food broker and then moved into positions with two leading national food manufacturers, often calling upon customers in the K-12 school market. This experience led Bauscher to turn to operations in her hometown district: Jefferson County (Ky.) Public Schools (JCPS). Working her way up from her initial position as procurement coordinator, followed by manager of the district’s then-new central production facility, in 2009 she succeeded Cheryl Sturgeon, SNS, as director of school and community nutrition services, upon Sturgeon’s retirement. Bauscher’s rise within her district has been mirrored by her successful commitment to her profession, including service as president (2001-02) of the Kentucky School Nutrition Association (KSNA)—for which she won an SNA President’s Award of Excellence—and, on the national level, as Southeast regional representative (2004-08) and chair of the Nutrition Committee (2008-10), as well as 2012 Child Nutrition Industry Conference co-chair. And, she will be installed as the Association’s next vice president this July at the Annual National Conference in Denver. Out Front Bauscher recalls how—with the encouragement of Sturgeon and SNA Past President Janey Thornton, PhD, SNS, who then directed the school nutrition program at a neighboring district—she got involved with KSNA soon after joining JCPS. Five years later, when the district needed a manager to run its new central kitchen, peers encouraged Bauscher to apply. “It was a risk,” she admits. “Our department had staked a lot on the facility. So if it didn’t succeed, I’d be out of a job, too.” Yet succeed she did. Over time, production labor as a percentage of food costs dropped from 51 to 29%. Meanwhile, between 2002 and 2008, the value of products provided to schools doubled from $1.8 million to $3.5 million. Most important, the program increased quantity, while expanding variety and enhancing nutritional quality with such changes as the transition to whole grains. Bauscher credits much of her success to the “importance of having caring mentors.” Of Sturgeon, she notes, “She was more of a behind-the-scenes leader who saw her role as empowering her people. Cheryl could see that I’m more of an out-front person. So, she gave me the support I needed to take leadership roles with KSNA and SNA.” A Powerful Profile Since being named director, Bauscher has applied her own style to the top job. “I was blessed to inherit a great program,” she avers, “and perhaps what I can bring is an ability to get out our message in a day and age when school nutrition is getting more media and community attention than ever before.” For example, last May, JCPS garnered national headlines when 77 of the district’s schools earned Bronze awards from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s HealthierUS School Challenge; at the time, it was the most schools recognized in any one district. “It required a huge amount of dedicated effort and paperwork, plus coordination with our physical education teachers,” Bauscher concedes. “But the recognition raises the profile of school nutrition.” And Bauscher continues to follow the example modeled by Sturgeon and others by seeking innovative ways to empower her team. “After attending many KSNA and SNA conferences, I wanted to give our employees a similar conference experience,” she notes. “So, we rent a conference facility and set up our annual inservice as an expo—with general sessions, plenary speakers, breakout training and a trade show with our vendors. Our staff appreciate that we do this for them, and the event gets them excited about their jobs.” She’s also developed a new employee training program and enhanced manager training. Bauscher’s creative ideas and many association involvements do require considerable time. “But the return on my investment is great,” she says. “Networking, making connections and getting involved opens more unexpected doors than you can imagine!” Meet Craig Weidel Craig Weidel, SNS, winner of this year’s FAME Silver Spirit Award, remembers how he “bounced around” after college and was “in between jobs” when he learned Mesa (Ariz.) Public Schools sought a school nutrition warehouse supervisor. Since his last job was in food warehousing, it was natural for him to apply. “It was 1984, the country was in a recession,” he recalls, “and as far I was concerned, a job was a job.” A Light Comes On That was Weidel’s outlook toward his work until he experienced a “light bulb moment” three years later. “As warehouse supervisor, I didn’t get out much to the schools,” he remembers. “But it was the first day of our summer feeding program, and I had a school delivery to make. I [noticed] a boy with his two younger siblings in tow.” When Weidel observed one of the youngsters looking upset and frustrated, he went to investigate. “Is there anything I can do to help you?” he asked. The boy, who held a banana by either end, grew teary as he replied, “Mister, I’m hungry, and I don’t know how to open it.” As Weidel now relates, “It wasn’t until that moment that I realized there were hungry kids in our district who needed meals even when school wasn’t in session.” He learned from the cafeteria manager that the three children walked a dozen blocks roundtrip—twice a day—to receive summer breakfast and lunch. Their father had died in a traffic accident, and their mother worked three jobs in the struggle to make ends meet. School meals were sometimes the children’s only source of food. “That experience flipped my switch,” Weidel says, “and turned me on to making a career in school nutrition.” In 1995, he was promoted to his current position as an area supervisor who—working under current director Loretta Zullo, SNS—oversees the district’s six high schools, while managing the department’s software system and maintaining its profit-and-loss statements. Up for the Challenge Weidel’s contributions to his program and the school nutrition profession go far beyond his written job description, as he has successfully handled numerous special projects. Among these has been implementation and promotion of a breakfast-in-the-classroom program, as well as the pioneering of reimbursable meal vending machines. Weidel’s creative solutions have an impact on managers district-wide through his initiation of the Food and Nutrition Leadership Development Academy training program. Managers must apply and be accepted, committing to attending bimonthly meetings outside regular work hours. Through classes that range from customer service to public speaking, he explains, “Managers boost their leadership skills and self-esteem and become better equipped to handle on-the-job challenges and better prepared for any opportunities that come up so that we can promote from within.” Weidel himself has logged more than 1,200 hours teaching seminars not only in Mesa, but also at school districts in nine Western states. Topics include public speaking, effective communication, leadership traits, empowering employees, conducting meetings, people skills and stress management—all geared to the unique needs of school nutrition professionals. And through his own company, Speaking Dynamic Concepts, LLC (http://craigweidel. com), he moonlights as “The Child Nutrition Guy” with books, workshops and motivational speeches (see “Is There Magic in the ‘Moonlight?,’” March 2011). In the 25 years after a “light bulb moment” turned Weidel on to school nutrition, his influence in the profession has spread statewide through service as president of the School Nutrition Association of Arizona and frequent chair of its Child Nutrition Industry Seminar—and extended nationwide as SNA West regional director (2005-07) and chair of the national Association’s Public Policy and Legislation Committee (2007-09). “At the end of the day,” he proclaims, “it’s still all about connecting your job to helping kids.”
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