Member Spotlights

2021

August: Lynelle Johnson, LRD, SNS

Boomtown. Western Star. The city of Williston, N.D., goes by many names. And it’s no wonder. The town, perched on the confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers and 60 miles from the Canadian border, has experienced a 210% population jump since 2010, thanks to an oil boom.

Williston Basin School District #7 doubled in size. And now, when other schools are attempting to return to some semblance of normal, the district is once again bracing for growth. A merger with a neighboring district will expand Williston to 5,000 students across 12 schools.

Lynelle Johnson, LRD, SNS, Food Service Director for Williston Public Schools, stands on the very precipice of change. But like any dietitian worth her salt, she’s ready for it.

Read more about Lynelle.

July: Sara Dan, MBA, RD

Is there anything more rewarding than giving back to the school system you grew up in? Sara Dan, Director of Food and Nutrition Services at Sarasota County Schools, grew up in Sarasota, Florida attending the very same school district she is now the director over. Sarasota County Schools is a 50 program school district with approximately 45% free & reduced, and over 300 employees. Leading up to her journey as Director, Sara received her Dietetics degree from the University of Florida and completed her Dietetic Internship at Emory University. After a short stint working in the clinical field, she found herself back in her hometown of Sarasota where she connected with the previous director of Sarasota County Schools, Beverly Girard, at a Dietetics Association meeting. Beverly had been looking for someone to fill the Nutrition Educator position, and Sara was a perfect fit. Since then, Sara has worked in various positions within the program including Internship Coordinator, Training Supervisor, Area Supervisor and now, Director.

Read More About Sara

June: Maria Anderson MS, RD, SNS

Maria Anderson MS, RD, SNS is the Nutrition Services Coordinator for Roseville Area Schools in Roseville, Minnesota. "Amongst all of the hustle and uncertainty of this year, Maria has persevered," Supervisor Angie Richey, MPH, RD, SNS says. "She has maintained a collected and calm demeanor that has helped settle everyone from frontline staff on up. Her work ethic, organization, and passion for food equity has made her a true #trayblazer throughout this pandemic!"

Read More About Maria

May: Jocelyn Karbo, MBA, RDN, SNS

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After 13 years as the Child Nutrition Director for Auburn City Schools in Auburn, Ala., Ashley Powell, PhD, RN, SNS, knows one thing for sure. Meet your new 2021-2022 SNS DPG Chair, Jocelyn Karbo, MBA, RDN, SNS!  We are so fortunate to have one great leader after another in this critical role.  A big thank you to outgoing chair, Stefanie Dove MBA, RDN, SNS, for the dedication and hard work that she committed to 2020-2021.  It was a year of unimaginable challenge, but her perseverance and progressive thinking made it one of the best years yet for the DPG.

Jocelyn Karbo, from Fort Worth, Texas, is member oriented and passionate about fighting to make sure every child has access to healthy meals.  She is a champion for school nutrition programs, which is rooted in her admiration for her Aunt who is a cafeteria manager and inspired Jocelyn to enter the field. Join us as we sit down with Jocelyn, to learn more about her and her goals for the DPG this year.

Read More About Jocelyn

April: Ashley Powell, PhD, RD, SNS

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After 13 years as the Child Nutrition Director for Auburn City Schools in Auburn, Ala., Ashley Powell, PhD, RN, SNS, knows one thing for sure.

“It’s in you what you will be,” she says.

“When God has a path for you, you just take it. And so, sometimes opportunities are there, and you just need to take the opportunity.” Ashley’s path to child nutrition wound around education. After earning a bachelor of science in nutrition and dietetics, she ended up getting a master’s in education. In 2018, she completed a PhD in education.

Read more about Ashley

March: Lauren Thomas, RDN

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If the driving force behind Lauren Thomas, RDN, could be summed up in one word, that word would be connect. Whether she’s building personal connections with students, establishing relationships with farmers and businesses in her community, or connecting the dots for parents struggling to maintain healthy lifestyles during the pandemic, connectedness drives Lauren’s passion for dietetics.

And what better way to connect than through school nutrition?

“School food across the country is now front and center and spotlighted, which I think is amazing,” Lauren says. “Why aren’t we highlighting school food? The amount of local businesses and farmers that we can support because we’re feeding so many kids is amazing.”

Read more about Lauren.

February: Alec Pienta, MS, RD

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If you think starting a new job is difficult, try starting it during a global pandemic! Alec Pienta, MS, RD, is the Special Projects Coordinator for Cobb County School District in Marietta, Georgia. The district has 112 schools and over 112,000 students. Alec joined the district in March, just weeks before the COVID-19 outbreak shut down schools. His passion for the program has motivated him to take on all of the challenges of 2020. But, he doesn't stop there. What is most impressive is that Alec has put his career and motivation into high gear by committing to professional development earning additional certificates. Alec reminds us that it's never too soon and it's never too late to learn. Join us for some inspiration and motivation to keep learning - no matter where you are in your career or what is happening in life!

Read more here

January: Laura Burns, RDN

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It seems the typical “Happy New Year” message has turned into “Goodbye 2020,” “We Survived,” and “Please let 2021 be better than 2020.” All of the stress that has accumulated is understandable and relatable to many. If you haven’t tended to your anxieties or if you adopted some bad habits during the pandemic- use the new year as a fresh start.

Laura Burns, RDN, is the Wellness Policy Specialist for the Virginia Department of Education. Laura is a wellness champion for children and school nutrition teams all across the state of Virginia. But, we can’t inspire others without first caring for ourselves. Join us as we learn more about Laura and get great tips on self-care for yourself and those around you.

Read more about Laura

December: Ben Atkinson, MS, RDN, CD

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Working in a school nutrition program in 2020 feels a bit like taking the RD exam all over again. Dietitians all over the country are being called on to use business knowledge, apply management training, come up with adaptations to handle allergies and clinical-level food modifications on the fly, and still maintain their day jobs. Meet Ben Atkinson, MS, RDN, CD – one such jack of all trades in Auburn, Wash.

“I think we’re all being forced to get out of our bubble and use some of those other parts of being a dietitian. I think it shows the good training that we’ve all had,” Ben said. “I think we’re a creative bunch, and I think that, especially in a pandemic, we’re focused on the right thing. We’re focused on helping our community. We’re focused on keeping our staff healthy and happy. We’re focused on providing good tasting and healthy foods.”

Read more about Ben

November: Shennie Quintanilla, MS, RDN, LDN

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Shennie Quintanilla, MS, RDN, LDN is the School Nutrition Communications & Community Outreach Specialist at Cambridge Public School (CPS) in Massachusetts. Uniquely suited for this position, Shennie is a passionate RDN with expertise in food service management and child nutrition, coupled with digital communications, community engagement, and education. Shennie’s main role with CPS, amongst her other responsibilities, is to better represent the district's vision in emphasizing family and community partnerships. The goal is to increase transparency to the community, parents, families and administrators about the nutritious and delicious meals the CPS Nutrition team prepares and serves to students.

Cambridge is a beautifully diverse community comprised of a variety of cultures. One program spearheaded by the CPS Nutrition team designed to embrace cultural diversity and inclusion is the International Flavors Program, which utilizes “taste parties” to enhance the cultural palettes of students and spark menu ideas popular with the diverse student population.

Communication and community engagement has been especially important during COVID-19 and with the onset of alternative meal distribution. Transparency with families and community has been paramount for CPS Nutrition; to let them know the many changes in foods, distribution, as well as providing assurance of food safety during the pandemic.

Read more about Shennie

October: Arminda Kovalchik, RDN, LDN

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Arminda Kovalchik, RDN, LDN is the Nutritionist for the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services. Arminda started her position in February, only two weeks prior to the COVID-19 closures. Though her first couple of months have been unique, she has still been able to enjoy the variety of hats a Registered Dietitian wears in the juvenile justice system.

Arminda, or Mindy for short, has the combined responsibilities of a clinical dietitian, nutrition education, and menu planner. “It’s really cool because you very rarely encounter a position where you get to do both clinical and school nutrition...This is not a position most people may gravitate towards, but I would tell other dietitians not to be scared of it. It is such a rewarding job to help people who are underserved and overlooked.”

Join us as we continue to learn about the world of nutrition in the juvenile justice system. Read More

September: Danielle DiCristofano

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Danielle DiCristofano is the Registered Dietitian for Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center (JTDC) in Chicago, Illinois. The center’s goal is to provide the kids with a “safe, secure, and caring environment with programs and structure that enhance personal development and improve opportunity for success upon return to the community” (www.cookcountyil.gov). The nutrition program at Cook County Juvenile Detention Center operates under the National School Lunch Program. When asked what her biggest challenge is at work, Danielle explains the extra layer of difficulty that she faces because all decisions she makes can impact the safety of the kids. Although uniquely challenging, Danielle's job is incredibly rewarding. Danielle shared how happy it makes her just to walk through the halls of the center.

“I love walking through the hallways and seeing the kids run up to their windows, excited to share with me their feedback on menu items or ask nutrition questions. When you’re locked up, food is sometimes what you look forward to all day. The kids get excited about food and that makes me happy that I can make their lives a little better.”

Learn more about the unique challenges of being a dietitian in the juvenile justice system and the life-changing project that Danielle has lined up for her youth at Cook County JTDC in this month's Member Spotlight.

August: Lauren Couchois

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A short two months into her new role at Greenville County Schools, Lauren Couchois and her team are reinventing their entire food service program, while still trying to maintain student favorites and community engagement. Lauren may not have a resume of global pandemic experience (who here does?), but she does have extensive experience in school nutrition to help her navigate these uncharted waters.

Learn more about fellow member, Lauren, and her school district's plan for feeding students on a complex hybrid schedule.

Read More About Lauren

July: Teresa Turner, MS, RD, LDN, SNS, FAND

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Teresa Turner, MS, RD, LDN, SNS, FAND, is the Army Child and Youth Services Nutritionist on base at Fort Meade in Maryland. She is the Food Service Manager for three child development centers, two school-age centers, and a middle school/teen center, all operating under CACFP. One short conversation with Teresa is enough to ignite thoughtful conversation, fueled by her passion for equity and justice. We talked about equity and justice in regard to food access and most simply, as humans.

The Black Lives Matters Movement and the COVID-19 Pandemic have, in a way, created the perfect storm for us. School Nutrition Programs have been able to feed all children at no cost, no identification needed. Amidst the chaos of the pandemic, the death of George Floyd sparked protests nationwide. Teresa emphasizes the importance of not only continuing the conversation but, more importantly, self-reflecting on how we can be the change every day.

Read More About Teresa

February: Melissa Halas, MA, RDN, CDE

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Melissa Halas, MA, RDN, CDE, has always had a passion for nutrition education and working with kids. She became interested in nutrition early in life due to her own personal battle with food allergies. In 2006, after years of working in clinical nutrition, she decided to launch her own website and educational materials called SuperKids Nutrition.

When talking about school nutrition, Melissa emphasized that "kids spend most of their waking hours at school. If we want to create healthier kids, communities and a thriving nation, we need to meet them where they are! Schools are like centers for the community. We know engaging parents in their child's education leads to better academic success. The same goes for good nutrition and fitness. Engaging parents and teachers about good health choices help them model good choices for their kids and students."

Melissa, who is originally from Philadelphia, lives in Pasadena, California. Her love for staying active, gardening, and cooking fuel her creativity when the pen hits the paper. Learn more about Melissa and her career in making communities healthier!

Read more about Melissa Halas' inspiring work here!

January: Lydia West, MPH, RD, LD, CC

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Lydia West, MPH, RD, LD, CC has always been at the forefront of the school food evolution. She has been covering ground, all over the country, through her work with the Mississippi Department of Education, her role on Chef Cyndie’s K-12 Culinary Team, and in her current career as an independent consultant.

Lydia is helping countless districts serve delicious and nutritious meals through innovative ideas and her passion for cooking. Join us for a fun and interesting conversation with Lydia, where we talk about the history of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, Mississippi Recipes for Success, current challenges in school nutrition programs, and self-care (even with a crazy schedule)!

Read more about Lydia West's inspiring work here!

2019

December: Livia Berg, RDN

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Livia Berg, the Nutrition Education and Marketing Specialist for Norfolk Public Schools, has always lead with her heart in serving communities and fighting against hunger. As a former AmeriCorps member and No Kid Hungry Cooking Matters Coordinator, Livia has dedicated her career to caring for others through the power of food.

This season, Livia and Norfolk Public Schools are going the extra mile to feed their community during the winter break. They will be piloting their new holiday feeding program. The NPS team recognized that the need for nutritious meals does not end when school is closed. No belly will be empty this winter, thanks to the full hearts of the Norfolk Public School's Nutrition Staff.

Read more about Livia and Norfolk’s inspiring work here!

November: Jeff Caguioa, RD, LD, SNS

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Jeff Caguioa RD, LD, SNS, who is originally from Dallas, is Chartwells' Resident Dietitian for DeSoto Independent Schools in Texas.

Jeff graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and adventurously decided to apply his studies to an international gustatory tour. His major in nutrition, minor in business, and passion for food is a triple-threat for enhancing school nutrition programs.

Learn more about Jeff and his work in Texas schools.

August: Shannon Ebron, MS, RDN, LD

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There may need to be a patent for this clever hashtag and genius concept at Fox Consolidated-6 School District in Arnold, Missouri. Shannon Ebron, MS, RDN, LD, is the Assistant Director at Fox C-6. She and her team are excited for the launch of a new manager mentorship program for the 2019-2020 school year.

Join us as we get to know Shannon and learn more about the program that can improve school nutrition programs in any district.

👉 FUN FACT: Shannon won the votes in naming the new Spoodle Report. Thanks for the fun and clever name Shannon! 👏

July: Kelley Toon, MS, RDN, LD

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Kelley Toon, MS, RDN, LD, is the Academic Nutritionist for the Georgia Department of Education. She is the first to fill this unique and much needed role. Kelley enlightens us with more details about her job and the potential future of this new and exciting position in the field of school nutrition.

Join us as we get to know Kelley and learn more about her career.

June: Katie Bambacht, RDN, LDN, SNS

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Holy cow. When did milk get such an udderly bad rap? Fears about sugar, fat-content, flavoring, intolerances, non-organic vs organic, and milk alternatives-- this is what I like to call the milk meltdown! There are many conversations and misperceptions around milk, both in the world of school nutrition and from the position as a consumer and dietitian.

We asked a fellow DPG member to clear up the air for us on a few questions that we had. Katie Bambacht, RDN, LDN, SNS, is the director of school nutrition for the National Dairy Council (NDC). Katie and her team at NDC is dedicated to translating science-based health and nutrition information so that we respond to our customers with knowledgeable answers that are supported by research. “I strive in my work to help children eat right, move more, fight hunger and provide education around sustainable practices from farm to table and the body of science supporting dairy’s role in child health and wellness.”

Get to know Katie and gain valuable knowledge from her in this month's Member Spotlight.

May: Elizabeth Campbell, MA, RDN

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Elizabeth Campbell, MA, RDN, is the Senior Director of Legislative and Government Affairs for the Academy. Liz’s passion for policy is rooted in her family, as she is the proud daughter of a father who was the president of the United Steelworkers Union. She began working for the same company that employed her father, while she studied Human Resources and Industrial Labor Relations. Liz intended on becoming a labor lawyer, until she realized that she had a natural draw towards nutrition. Her interest in policy translated to a career dedicated to expanding food access.

Liz is currently the lead of the Academy’s Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR) working group. She and her team of esteemed school nutrition professionals are working together to influence congress and move the reauthorization in the right direction to protect and improve our programs. The recently release School Nutrition and Meal Cost Study is a significant supporting document in their fight. It is also an extremely beneficial tool for SFAs who need to advocate for their programs and educate the public on our improved nutritional quality of meals since the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010.

Read more about Liz and the CNR working group here.

April: Dalia Kinsey, RD, LD

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Dalia Kinsey, RD, LD, is the dietitian for Bibb County School District in Macon, Georgia. She has been an inspirational voice in the field of dietetics, supporting, encouraging, and educating others on diversity. She proudly and confidently provokes dialogue about diversity in the dietetics profession; conversations that most feel uncomfortable or too scared to discuss. She also has some very exciting news… SPOILER ALERT- she has a school nutrition podcast coming out in August 2019.

Access the full article here.

March: Cyrpress-Fairbanks Independent School Featuring Member Katie Barckholtz, MPH, RD, LD

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Katie Barckholtz, MPH, RD, LD, is the Marketing and Special Diets Coordinator at Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School, located in Harris County, Texas. Katie and her team at Cy-Fair ISD have created a food culture that is fun, innovative, and most importantly, delicious!

Between their scrumptious pork banh mi sandwiches, creatively branded department, and new hydroponic gardens, they are redefining school nutrition. Read more about Cy-Fair and Katie’s exciting role. We encourage readers to feel inspired and borrow these great ideas!

Access the full article here.

February: Jonathan Isbill

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Dietetic interns offer fresh ideas, new energy, and currency to the field of nutrition. It is especially important that we encourage students to explore the field of school nutrition, so that we too can stay current. We want school lunch to be cool right?!

Dietetic intern, Jonathan Isbill, from Ball State University, has a natural passion for school nutrition and wants to tell us all about his experience during his school nutrition rotation and his excitement for his future as a dietitian.

Check out Jonathan’s spotlight article here!

The content you are trying to view is for members of the School Nutrition Services dietetic practice group.