Jeanne Pierce SNA Member Since 2005 • Exeter, New Hampshire In New Hampshire’s Rockingham County, Jeanne Pierce, SNS, director of foodservice for Exeter Region Cooperative School District, brings a commitment and passion for feeding kids to her rural/suburban community of 4,700 students. A budding leader at the state and national level, Pierce cites her 30 employees as her biggest inspiration. Pierce reflects on her career as a school nutrition leader, the importance of listening and the value of the collaborative approach. On Leading a Team I try to look for the strengths of the people on my team; what’s “best” about them. If they have hidden talents, I want to help encourage those to come out and serve the betterment of our school meals program. For example, I have one staff member who is very into healthy eating, and she has developed a lot of our salad recipes. She took recipes that she enjoys at home—specialty salads and dressings—and adapted them for our program. This was a way for her to bring her passion for fresh fruits and vegetables to our students. I also think it’s important to lead by example: There’s nothing I would ask of my team members that I wouldn’t do myself. I try to set goals for them that are reachable—but are also a bit of a stretch. This is true of the goals I set for myself, too. You have to believe you can reach your goal, but know that it might take you some time to get there. Finally reaching them builds confidence! On Volunteering Being a volunteer leader for SNA and the state means helping people to problem-solve. It doesn’t matter where members are in the profession—directors, managers, technicians, cooks—they all need their leaders to be available to make things better, and listen to them. At first, I didn’t have any ambition to volunteer. But a New Hampshire peer, Pat Laska, asked me to serve on the state board in a chair position, and I said “yes.” From there, I was asked to be on the ballot as an officer candidate. This experience at the state level opened the doors to being part of the national organization. It’s been inspiring—and very humbling—to have opportunities to help your professional peers. For those who are new to SNA and its state affiliates and local chapters, I recommend starting slow. Join a committee, see what you like and how the process works. You’ll need to figure out how you can balance volunteering, family and work. From there, you can grow from local to state and then national opportunities. It’s very rewarding to serve with fellow school nutrition professionals at all levels. I find it so empowering! On Finding Her Voice I’m an introvert! I’ve always liked to stand in the back and watch what’s going on. Through my work as an SNA leader, though, I feel that I’ve really found my voice. I can now speak in front of people. In fact, not too long ago, I had to speak before the governor of New Hampshire and the executive council, asking them to change the open campus rules and set more time aside for lunches. We didn’t succeed, but it was a valuable experience! I’ve also learned to really listen and understand what’s going on before I react. I always want to come in to a problem and fix everything, but you can’t do this overnight. You can’t paint the whole house at once! You have to do it room by room. For example, as a new director in a district, you want to bring all the energy with you, but what you really have to do is hold back. When I started at this district, I had to learn to watch and listen first. On Inspiration I think inspiration comes from the many people who touch you in your life, as you walk further along your path. I’ve gained inspiration from a lot of people: from my parents, who encouraged me to achieve anything I wanted, to bosses I’ve had who taught me how to be a better manager, to people within SNA that have helped me along my path. And I try to inspire others in the same way. Whenever I get a chance, I speak about what a wonderful career choice school nutrition is. When I have interns, I try to show them the rewarding parts of the position. I always tell my people, “You’re doing good!” when the kids enjoy what we serve them and the staff enjoy what they are doing. A lot of us don’t talk enough about the good that we do in feeding children. On Achievement—Today and Tomorrow I think what I am proudest of is my staff. They are passionate, and they share my enthusiasm for what we are doing. No school meals program is anything without the front-line people, and I couldn’t be who I am today if I didn’t have the people around me to execute our vision with belief and passion. As for the future, I would like to be able to serve at a national level, if the path allows it. But I’m in a good place, enjoying my life. As told to Susan Davis Gryder, a freelance writer in Silver Spring, Md. 30-SECOND BIO CHILDHOOD HOMETOWN Hull, Massachusetts CURRENT HOMETOWN Wolfeboro, New Hampshire EDUCATION B.S. in Hospitality Management, Johnson and Wales University YEARS IN SCHOOL NUTRITION 25 TITLE Food Service Director EMPLOYER Exeter Region Cooperative School District PROGRAM AT A GLANCE 6 schools, 1 contract site, 4,700 students, 30 employees, $1.2 million budget. Offers breakfast and lunch. SNA LEADERSHIP SNA, Professional Development Committee Member (2015-17); New Hampshire SNA President (2011-13) FAMILY Husband Mark, Daughter Brittanie (24)
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