2018 SNA & MSNA Award Winners

By  •  June 16, 2018 at 10:05 am

MSNA  has named Adele Lillie, Child Nutrition Program Director for Robbinsdale Independent School District, the state Director of the Year. This award recognizes the extraordinary contributions of school nutrition directors who manage effective school meal programs providing healthy, appetizing meals to students. Having worked in school nutrition for 36 years, 14 of those in Robbinsdale Independent Schools, Adele Lillie brings a high level of experience, knowledge and leadership to her job.

The Director of the Year Award was created to recognize school nutrition directors who exhibit an extraordinary commitment to their school meal programs. The directors are responsible for maintaining the quality of the program through student interaction, menu planning and a commitment to serving nutritious, tasty and well-balanced school meals. Through effective oversight of all aspects of foodservice operations, including budgeting, staffing, training, marketing and community outreach, school nutrition directors ensure the overall success of school meal programs.

Staff members describe Adele as supportive and encouraging, helping to bring out the best in each school nutrition employee in the district. She is an advocate for school nutrition staff, encouraging SNA certification and extra training whenever possible. She has coordinated staff training workshops for over 150 people, creating different themes such as civil rights, staff management, kitchen efficiency, meal pattern offering and food safety.

Adele also sees the importance in working with members of the community, providing information and education about meal programs through outreach and informational sessions on jobs and careers in school nutrition. She enjoys working with everyone, from administration and staff, to food and equipment vendors, all helping her make the best decisions for her students’ health and well-being.

“Adele Lillie goes above and beyond to ensure that her staff members are well-prepared and her students are receiving nutritious foods with top notch customer service,” said Minnesota School Nutrition Association President Wendy Knight. “The glowing reviews from her staff and the fantastic programs she has helped implement in her district illustrate what a stellar school nutrition leader she is.”

In July, Adele will be honored during the Red Carpet Awards Ceremony at the School Nutrition Association’s Annual National Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada and during the Awards Ceremony at the 62nd Minnesota School Nutrition Association’s Annual State Conference at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester, MN.

 Manager of the Year

The School Nutrition Association (SNA) has named Gretchen Schroeder from Jackson Middle School in Anoka-Hennepin Independent School District, MN, the Midwest regional Manager of the Year.  Considered the highest honor a school nutrition manager can earn, the award recognizes a cafeteria manager who has demonstrated dedication and ingenuity to improve his or her school meal program.

The Manager of the Year Award is given in honor of Louise Sublette, a leader in school nutrition in her state and in the national School Nutrition Association. During her 43 years in the profession, Sublette worked in many areas of foodservice—public schools, colleges, hospitals and elderly feeding programs. Sublette dedicated her career to honoring school nutrition professionals and ensuring those who work in school cafeterias have access to professional development opportunities, empowering them to help their school meal programs flourish.

Gretchen Schroeder took on the position of child nutrition program site supervisor in 2006, managing a cafeteria serving 2,200+ students as well as two kitchens almost a half-mile apart. To serve more efficiently and alleviate long lines and wait times for students, Schroeder re-structured the cafeteria to create three full service lines offering the same menu selections. Her high standards in service result in cheerful cafeterias and beautiful food presentations.

Beloved by students, Schroeder is approachable and welcoming to all, treating her students who have special dietary needs with care and respect. She has been innovative in helping grow participation in the Grab & Go breakfast program and is known to deliver breakfast to students who missed the morning meal. She set up breakfast service from the cafeteria as well as serving from two carts located in various areas in the building to help ensure students get their first meal of the day before class.

Schroeder is extremely helpful to staff, creating a positive and comfortable environment. As a mentor to other site supervisors, Schroeder is known to be flexible, patient and encouraging in her training style. Her positive role modeling shows others how to mentor their staff and increase involvement with SNA.

Schroeder represents her school and district’s nutrition program at Destination Imagination, an event of 4,000 participants – parents, teachers and others from across the state of Minnesota. There, she works hard to provide a variety of school menu items so guests can sample the delicious foods served to students. Showing off her awesome program and talented staff, Schroder is happy to pleasantly surprise visitors by the quality and variety of offerings.

“Site supervisors like Gretchen Schroeder help ensure departments run efficiently and provide the best food and service to their students,” said SNA President Lynn Harvey, EdD, RDN, SNS. “She has shown a dedication to her district and to the health and happiness of her students, going above and beyond the call of duty.”

In July, Schroeder will be honored during the Red Carpet Awards Ceremony at the School Nutrition Association’s Annual National Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada and during the Awards Ceremony at the 62nd Minnesota School Nutrition Association’s Annual State Conference at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester, MN.

Employee of the Year

MSNA has named Kathy Hanson, Food Service Associate at Dakota Hills Middle School and Eagan High School, the state Employee of the Year. The award recognizes the valuable contribution of school nutrition employees who exhibit a remarkable commitment to the school meal program and the students they serve.

The Employee of the Year Award was created to recognize outstanding school nutrition employees who influence the quality of school meals through customer service, an interest in young people, cooperation, work attendance, creativity, participation in professional development and their willingness to go above and beyond.

Detail-oriented and dependable is how food service colleagues describe Kathy Hanson. Every school day in the biggest kitchen in Independent School District 196, Hanson works with 22 other staff members, coordinating seven lunch periods, serving 1,500 meals, all within 75 minutes. Hanson connects with students, making them feel valued and important and is always there to lend a helping hand or answer their questions. She makes the cafeteria a welcoming and cheerful place for staff, visitors and students. Known by students for her creative salads, she has a passion for putting together healthy choices from whatever fresh ingredients are available in the kitchen.

She is always finding ways to connect with colleagues and help others stay happy and focused at work. Hanson has also created a community atmosphere for coworkers, creating employee contact lists and organizing after-work events, summer gatherings and a Christmas party.

Currently serving as president of her local SNA Chapter, she views her involvement in MSNA as an important way to maintain the best training and access the most up-to-date food service information available. She has attended several state, regional and national conferences and sees real value in attending classes offered, often bringing ideas back to her school’s kitchen. At last year’s Annual National Conference, she especially enjoyed the training offered on multi-cultural food options, sharing insights with colleagues upon her return. Hanson also started a scholarship for graduating seniors in her district who plan to study a food-related field. Through her efforts, the local SNA Chapter has given away $4,000 in scholarships the last three years.

“We are so proud to have food service members like Kathy Hanson in Minnesota,” said MSNA President Wendy Knight, also the Director of Child Nutrition Services for District 196. “She has helped improve the lives of so many in her school and shows true passion for school nutrition and ensuring we teach our students healthy habits for a successful life beyond school.”

In July, Kathy  will be honored during the Red Carpet Awards Ceremony at the School Nutrition Association’s Annual National Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada and during the Awards Ceremony at the 62nd Minnesota School Nutrition Association’s Annual State Conference at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester, MN.

“E” Team Award

MSNA has awarded the food service team at Independent School District 196’s Eagan High School and Dakota Hills Middle School the MSNA “E” Team Award, which showcases excellence in teamwork, creativity and customer service.

This award honors staff members Helen Anderson, Lisa Caporelli, Anita Frydenlund, Sondra Gustafson, Mary Jo Haire, Kathryn Hanson, Elizabeth Hofmann, Hong Huynh, Kathy Kennebeck, Ina Law, Jane McEvers, Suzette Messner, Sheila Mora, Rukiyo Osman, Jane Peterson, Pamela Peterson, Lisa Rademacher, Stephanie Taylor, Misgana Tesfai, Deanne Thebert, Kristin Wagner and Mary Beth Wehrman for going the “Extra Mile” as part of the team’s goals to bring their best service to the forefront.

Superior organizational skills are required to service two schools from one kitchen and prepare more than 1,500 meals within 75 minutes. Students are able to sit and enjoy their lunch in the allotted time because the cafeteria runs like a well-oiled machine. All staff members have a “job of the week,” but they also help where needed. They have become a support system for each other, inside the kitchen and out, forming a food service family that has fun after work and socially. They take health seriously and have started an exercise class two days a week for staff members to encourage healthy habits and support each other’s fitness goals.

When students asked for more options, this talented staff added a “grab and go” line and a “Campbell’s Fresh Prepared Soup Spot”. Both concepts have been very popular, offering healthy options for busy students. Eagan High School is the first in the country to have the new prepared soup spot concept from Campbell’s.

Making students feel comfortable and welcome is as important to the team as providing healthy and delicious meals. Staff members wear the theme of the day during Homecoming Week to show their school spirit. The kitchen staff has a unique relationship with students in their two schools, especially the special education students who help them with special kitchen tasks.

“It’s heartwarming to see such a dedicated group of staff members – all working together in such an organized, passionate and motivated way to provide our students with delicious and nutritious meals,” said MSNA Executive Director Sharon Maus. “Each member of this team goes above and beyond in all they do, making their students, the staff and their community proud.”

In July, the Eagan High School/Dakota Hills Middle School Food Service Associates will be honored during the Awards Ceremony at the 62nd Minnesota School Nutrition Association’s Annual State Conference at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester, MN.

Industry Partner of the Year

MSNA has awarded Heather Yanta, of Indianhead Food Distributor in Eau Claire, WI, as the 2018 Individual Industry Partner of the Year. She is being recognized for serving both Wisconsin and Minnesota in her role as distributor.

The Industry Member of the Year award recognizes the efforts of an individual who has demonstrated exemplary support to MSNA members, engages in the sale of products or services to members and has made especially outstanding contributions to the advancement of the child nutrition profession.

Yanta is committed to MSNA, continually giving her time to members and keeping up to date on the latest information on school nutrition and food service trends. She has been a leader in K-12 food distribution and maintains exceptional customer support, bringing value to her customers and other members of MSNA by providing insight from years of experience. She is known to exhibit a positive, giving and inclusive attitude – always willing to assist members in providing the best quality product and service to students.

Yanta has taught sanitation courses and food manager renewal courses, helping members earn credits toward certification. She has attended many MSNA conferences, been a member on the Advisory Board, and has served on the Industry Committee since 2014, holding the title of Industry Committee Chairperson for the past two years.

“Heather Yanta has demonstrated a level of commitment to MSNA and goes above and beyond the call of duty to give back to association members and her colleagues in school nutrition,” said MSNA President Wendy Knight.

In July, Heather will be honored during the Awards Ceremony at the 62nd Minnesota School Nutrition Association’s Annual State Conference at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester, MN.