DVR Alert! Isonville Elementary School Cafeteria Manager Jason Smith (#lordhoney) is back on TV, vying to be crowned the next Food Network Star. Smith, an SNA member and a board member of the Kentucky School Nutrition Association, was named winner of the cable channel’s Holiday Baking Championship last December. His humble roots, flashy fashion sense and Southern charm earned him a following far beyond the school nutrition world. Season 13 of Food Network Star kicked off June 4, and at press time, Smith had survived the first round of competition. Good luck, Jason! Tuxedo Junction When asked to cater the Senior Breakfast to celebrate Humboldt (Ariz.) Unified School District’s graduating class, the Food and Nutrition team showed that they can compete with the slickest commercial caterers around by dressing for the occasion. Lookin’ sharp, ladies! Thank-you notes mean a lot, but peer-to-peer testimonials mean everything! We love that the fifth-grade students in Millsap Elementary School, Cypress Fairbanks (Texas) Independent School District were asked to write letters to incoming students about what to expect when school opens in late August. And we really love that one letter starts with a shout-out to the cafeteria team: “First off their food is outstanding…” It’s no surprise that the new Nutritional Services food truck for Kansas City (Kan.) Public Schools (KCKPS) is bedecked in a comic book-style treatment of the MyPlate dietary guidance, complete with a caped hero. The design is on-trend and popular with kids—and no one knows that better than the artist herself: 7th-grader Esperanca Santoyo, who says she was inspired by her brother’s passions when she entered a contest to create a branded look for the vehicle. Josh Mathiasmeier, KCKPS nutritional services director, knew that engaging students in the art contest would be a way to ensure they are engaged with his program—during the summer and all year long. More than 50 students from all grade levels submitted entries. “Esperanca’s capabilities and abilities will make a positive impact on her community,” Mathiasmeier says, going on to share his dreams for a fleet of trucks that could cover many sites. And the response to the design—buy-in from students and staff—has him contemplating future student contests, as well. KCKPS Nutritional Services bought the food truck after securing a grant from Cities Combating Hunger through Afterschool and Summer Meals Programs (CHAMPS). They also worked with Healthy Communities Wyandotte, who assisted with transferring Esperanca’s design from paper to the truck wrap. Mathiasmeier estimates this one truck will deliver meals to some 4,000 youths this summer. SUMMER MEALS TAKE TO THE ROAD Summer is here and School Nutrition is thrilled by the virtual avalanche of social media posts from districts all across the country promoting the availability of summer meals in their communities. (For more marketing ideas to achieve record participation milestones, see page 189.) We love every approach to ensuring that kids in food-insecure households get meals when school is out. But we are particularly tickled by the veritable fleet of new, brightly colored, branded buses and trucks that are delivering those essential meals. It’s a trend we first covered back in 2012, and we’re glad to see it growing in leaps and bounds each year! Pictured: Vehicles from school nutrition operations in Cincinnati, Ohio; Greenville County, S.C.; Hillsborough County, Fla.; Jefferson County, Ky.; Kansas City, Kan.; Minneapolis, Minn.; Murfreesboro, Tenn.; and New Britain, Conn. From Sea to Shining Sea With a recent trip to Fargo, N.D., JoAnne Robinett, SNS, can now boast that she has traveled to all 50 of these United States! Upon her arrival to be the keynote speaker at the North Dakota School Nutrition Association annual conference, Robinett’s hosts presented her with a certificate, pin and a “Best for Last Club” t-shirt to honor her achievement. Robinett, a popular school nutrition consultant and trainer, is also a frequent writer for School Nutrition. In our March 2007 issue on travel, she shared another milestone memory with our readers: In 1985, as president of her local SNA chapter, Robinett learned she was expected to go to the state conference. “I was scared! I knew that this trip would mean driving on an interstate (which I had never done) to a strange place and changing lanes in city traffic. I could not imagine myself making this journey!” Today, Robinett has not only traveled to all 50 states, but she has vacationed all around the globe, visiting destinations in Europe, Asia, Africa and South America. Most of these trips have had some connection with her involvement with SNA, either for business, professional growth or personal friendships. To think it all began with a local chapter leadership role in SNA! Way to go, JoAnne! This mascot costume may go into SN’s Hall of Fame (if that were actually a thing). Dee Vaught, school cafeteria manager at Bransford Elementary School in the Grapevine-Colleyville (Texas) Independent School District, goes all out to promote Superfoodie Thursdays. You make us smile, Dee! (And now we’re craving blackberries, too.) DEBT ANGELS As we witnessed around the winter holidays, School Nutrition is seeing many news stories about Good Samaritans who are contacting local school nutrition departments as the school year draws to a close and offering to pay off some or all of the student debt from unpaid meal charges. But there was one generous donation that drew more far-reaching headlines than the others. In late May, singer John Legend donated $5,000 to help erase a $20,000 student lunch debt at Seattle Public Schools. A local parent, Jeff Lew, had started a GoFundMe page to raise money and pay the bill. The Grammy-and Oscar-winning musician made the donation under his real name, John Stephens. After being thanked by Lew via Twitter, Legend replied with words that will be music to all our ears: “My pleasure! We should have free lunch for all our public students!” (Yes!) Since Legend’s generous donation, and its accompanying publicity, Lew has expanded his efforts to erase lunch debt in other Washington communities, including Redmond, Tacoma and Spokane. Wear a Helmet We love when the cafeteria team finds its own unique spin in supporting school-wide initiatives! This is such a fun promotion of a Walk and Bike to School Day celebration held at Bethel School District in Eugene, Ore. And it’s a clever reminder to kids to be safe! Between School Lunch Hero Day and the end of the school year, SN saw a lot heart-warming thank-yous from students to the hardest-working employees in the district shared via social media. Here are three of our favorites, from Billerica, Mass.; Camdenton, Mo.; and Wilson County, Tenn. SN saw a lot of social media postings spotlighting the cafeteria creativity on display in honor of Star Wars Day (May 4: “May the Fourth be with you!”). But this one from Kittery (Maine) School Nutrition, of “Princess Leia” and “Chewbacca” intently focused on their cashier responsibilities, may be our favorite! It’s surely the start of summer! The team at Range View Elementary in Colorado’s Weld RE-4 School District actually created this beautiful sunflower platter back in April for the district’s Food Art Friday contest, but it puts us in the mind of summer gardens and carefree days. Made with orange slices and black beans on a bed of spinach greens, it’s simple, eye-catching and inviting! (And it would make a delicious salad….)
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