The national, non-profit School Nutrition Association (SNA) has named Janelle Peterson, SNS, School Nutrition Manager for Rapid City Area School District, SD, the Midwest regional Director of the Year. The award recognizes the extraordinary contributions of school nutrition directors who manage effective school meal programs providing healthy, appetizing meals to students.
For the past eight years, Janelle Peterson has dedicated her time and energy into growing the district’s school meal programs; implementing breakfast programs, expanding on free and reduced meal programs and adding access to healthy meals during the summer. One of her first major steps, Peterson implemented the School Breakfast Program at all 23 schools, increasing breakfast participation from 525 students in September 2011 to 3,200 students in January 2019. Peterson coordinated the implementation of Community Eligibility Provision in nine schools.
In 2011, Peterson started the district’s highly successful Summer Meal Foodservice Program, which now uses a mobile feeding unit and served 7,953 breakfast meals and 22,186 total lunches in the summer of 2018 alone. The truck is decorated with the same branded, vibrant watercolor fruits and vegetables found in the district’s production kitchens – encouraging students to “Choose Joy” and “Dream Big.” She believes that the physical environment in which students eat should reflect a positive atmosphere. Peterson has used the food truck as a platform to bring the district’s child nutrition program to the public through live videos, interviews and regular posts on social media. She actively seeks partnerships with other members of the community, including her involvement in a senior feeding program.
In addition to creating a collaborative working environment with her staff, Peterson understands the importance of promoting the nutrition program with teachers, school boards and administration. Peterson has created a positive relationship within the school community, benefiting the quality of meals and service to students. She continues to encourage her staff to attend SNA conferences and chapter meetings, take advantage of training sessions and work for the betterment of school nutrition within the community as a whole.
Peterson has held various leadership roles within Student Nutrition Association of South Dakota, holding the titles of vice president, president-elect and president. Peterson utilizes her superior training skills to teach on topics including culinary math, knife skills, food safety, identifying reimbursable meals and hygiene when preparing food. She brings in external school food service resources and professional chefs to enhance staff training. She has attended many of SNA’s professional development and industry conferences since 2004, using her public speaking skills to present at various conference sessions.
“Janelle Peterson shows a great dedication and passion for school nutrition, working with others in her community and growing her district’s program by leaps and bounds in recent years,” said SNA President Gay Anderson, SNS. “She not only demonstrates how to manage a diverse staff, but teaches them how to become excellent leaders in school nutrition themselves.”
The regional 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.
On July 14, 2019, Peterson will be honored during the Red Carpet Awards Ceremony at the School Nutrition Association’s 73rd Annual National Conference in St. Louis, MO.