HOUSTON – Oct. 10, 2018 – With National School Lunch Week fast approaching and the kick off of the Texas Department of Agriculture’s Farm Fresh Challenge earlier this month, the employees of the Spring ISD Child Nutrition Department don’t have much time to rest on their laurels. All the same, they found the opportunity this week to celebrate some well-deserved recognition from the Spring ISD Board of Trustees, which invited several of the department’s members to Tuesday’s meeting to receive Spring ISD Points of Pride Awards.
Over the summer, the Child Nutrition Department was recognized by the Texas Department of Agriculture for their success in last fall’s Texas Farm Fresh Challenge program. Spring ISD’s Child Nutrition Department was awarded “Best of the Bunch” status for their pledge and commitment, during last year’s challenge, to serve locally and Texas-sourced foods and providing educational opportunities to help students learn more about nutrition and Texas agriculture.
“We’re always trying to improve what we do, and the push toward local is part of that for us,” Director Shelly Copeland said. “Students see it, and they’re making the connections. We’ve always had fresh fruit on the menu, but when you can say, ‘It was grown in Texas,’ it means a lot.”
The department was also honored over the summer by the Texas Association for School Nutrition (TASN), which renewed the department’s Standards of Excellence Accreditation. The Standards of Excellence program involves an in-depth review process covering key areas such as Departmental Organization, Financial Management, Staffing and Training, Marketing and Communications, Nutrition Education, and Menu Planning and Procurement, among others.
The submission process is lengthy – usually taking districts between six months to a year to complete – and districts that receive the award are eligible for renewal every five years thereafter.
Copeland noted that one of the common themes of all the awards being celebrated was the department’s commitment to building systems that ensure long-term quality and consistency while also being responsive to the day-to-day needs of busy school cafeterias.
“We received the Standards of Excellence for the first time in 1998,” Copeland said, “and we re-qualify every five years. So we’ve held that award for 20 years, which is awesome.”
In addition, several Child Nutrition employees received individual state-level awards over the summer at the TASN annual conference. The recognized employees, along with the categories in which they received their awards, are:
- Cristina Carino, Cafeteria Manager at Beneke Elementary, “School Nutrition Manager of the Year”
- Georgina Torres, Cafeteria Manager at Dueitt Middle School, “Local Plan of Action Award”
- Jeannie Stallings, Area Supervisor, “Diamond Leadership Award”
- Jennifer Fasano, Coordinator of Nutrition and Menu Planning, “Partnership in Nutrition Award”
Fasano received her award in part for her efforts in producing a new Spring ISD Food Packaging Guide, allowing campus-based Child Nutrition staff to see exactly what a menu item should look like and how it should be prepared and packaged for presentation to students in the cafeteria.
“It’s nice to be recognized, but I just love what I do,” Fasano said. “I enjoy making menus and healthy recipes that students will want to eat. I love introducing them to new things – new foods, new flavors – and seeing how they react.”
The presentation at this week’s board meeting – with Spring ISD Points of Pride awards given to the department and its employees because of their state-level accomplishments through TASN and the Texas Department of Agriculture – offered a moment for celebration, but Copeland and her team were also thinking about tomorrow’s menu. This year’s Farm Fresh Challenge is already underway, with Spring ISD again aiming for the “Best of the Bunch” award.
After the board meeting, Chief Operations Officer Mark Miranda praised the department’s work, explaining why it’s critical to the district’s mission and goals.
“School nutrition programs are about more than just food,” said Miranda. “They represent one of the important ways that Spring ISD as a district serves the community. A nutritious breakfast or lunch can make all the difference in the world, and I applaud our Child Nutrition Department’s ongoing commitment to make sure students are healthy and prepared to learn every day.”