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South Jordan Journal

South Jordan Elementary Nutrition Manager receives national award

Jun 28, 2018 02:48PM ● By Jennifer Gardiner

Angela Allen in her element in the cafeteria of South Jordan Elementary School. (Photo courtesy Jordan School District)

By Jennifer Gardiner | [email protected]

South Jordan Elementary School Nutrition Manager Angela Allen was recently named the West Regional Manager of the year by the national, nonprofit School Nutrition Association. 

This award is considered the highest honor a school nutrition manager can earn. It aims to recognize a cafeteria manager who has demonstrated dedication and ingenuity to improve his or her school meal program. 

Allen puts in a lot of effort into making her cafeteria a fun, relaxed and welcoming place for students and staff members. She spends part of every lunch period out in the cafeteria talking to students, asking about their lunch, encouraging them to try new things and taking note of what they like or dislike. To form better connections with students, she tries to learn all of their names and include them in cafeteria activities whenever possible. After giving one class a recent kitchen tour, she provided hairnets and aprons and helped them make bread dough that they turned into pizzas and cinnamon sticks for lunch. 

Allen helped to promote her local SNA chapter’s charity basket raffle for the holidays, collecting items for anyone in need who works in the school nutrition program and has school-aged children. In all, 14 families were helped, including 34 children and several other charities that serve students in her district. 

“Angela Allen goes above and beyond to make sure her students’ best interests are always at the center of decisions,” said SNA President Lynn Harvey. “She’s a special nutrition manager, working tirelessly to ensure healthy, balanced meals are available for her students and that they feel welcomed in the cafeteria every day.” 

Allen and her staff are known for creating elaborate decorations, donning full costumes and playing music during themed lunch days. After organizing a morning visit from “Ace the Kitchen Elf,” breakfast participation nearly doubled. Bringing students healthy food and joy are her main objectives. 

She has served as a facilitator for "Team Up for Success" and a skills panelist at the state SNA conference. Whenever she can, Allen enjoys sharing knowledge and experiences with colleagues in the hope that it can benefit others in the school nutrition field. 

“I did not set out to work in School Nutrition,” said Allen. “I received my Bachelor of Science degree in hotel administration, but when I found myself a single parent of twin boys, my dream of owning my own bed and breakfast changed to working at my boys’ school.” 

Allen said while she does not know for sure who nominated her, she was told it was a combination of her staff, the district supervisors and possibly someone from the state offices who attended the Legislative Action Conference with her in Washington, D.C. 

“What started as convenient employment soon became a passion,” Allen said. “As a mother, I appreciated a hot lunch being available to my kids at school, and when I started to work in the school nutrition department, the challenge of creating nutritional and appealing lunches gave me purpose.” 

Allen said the kids inspire and motivate her. 

“They deserve good meals, and when they have a full stomach they have better behavior and a greater capacity to learn,” Allen said. “In my small way, I want to help kids be successful and support educators. In turn, the community in which I live and raise my family will be better.” 

She admits the greatest challenges are negative stereotypes and regulations that go too far. 

“Each year the horror stories of poorly run nutrition programs make the news, but the majority that put out a great product and provide a needed service for our community get painted with the same negative brush,” Allen said. “We work hard to create meals that are nutritional and yet still appeal to kids. They only benefit from the food they actually eat.” 

In July, Allen will be honored during the Red Carpet Awards Ceremony at the School Nutrition Association’s Annual National Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada.