School Nutrition Professionals: Rising Above the Everyday Challenges

FlyntDebra “Kay” Flynt
Food Service Assistant
Goodyear Elementary, GA

Kay is the top bread maker in her district and trains each school kitchen to create “the perfect roll” for students.
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Menu Development
When planning menus, school nutrition professionals must:

  • Understand and abide by school meal regulations, including complex nutrition standards
  • Ensure cafeterias have the necessary equipment and trained staff to prepare and safely serve each item to hundreds of students each lunch period;
  • Meet the taste preferences of increasingly diverse student bodies;
  • Stay on budget!

Jerrilyn HernandezJerrilyn Hernandez
Kitchen Manager
Orofino Junior-Senior High School, Idaho

Jerrilyn has made it her mission to research grants to support new ways of offering healthy options in the cafeteria.
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In the Cafeteria
School nutrition professionals who work at the "point of service" are on the frontlines of serving healthy school meals and encouraging students to embrace nutritious choices. These professionals take on a number of challenges and responsibilities including:

  • Short lunch periods: Over-crowded schools and short lunch periods leave students with limited time to select and eat their meals. Cafeteria staff work hard to have meals plated in advance or ready for quick service to minimize students' time waiting in line.
  • Food allergies:As more students suffer from food allergies, school nutrition professionals must identify potential allergens and protect affected children as they select their meals. SNA’s The State of School Nutrition 2018 survey found that schools are offering more options, such as gluten-free foods, for students with allergies and intolerances.
  • Constance “Connie” Little, SNSConstance “Connie” Little, SNS
    Nutrition Services Supervisor
    Beavercreek City Schools, Ohio

    Connie’s nutrition knowledge, operations savvy and leadership skills have resulted in a more efficient, student-focused nutrition services program.
    Learn more  

  • Strict food safety standards: School meal programs are required to implement a school food-safety program based on HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) principles and receive two required health/safety inspections for each school kitchen.
  • Identifying the reimbursable meal: Cashiers must ensure each student selects enough items for their meal to be eligible for a federal reimbursement. Every student must take a fruit or vegetable with their lunch and have a minimum of three meal components on their tray. Cashiers must carefully track the number of meals served and account for a la carte purchases. Speed is of the essence to prevent line delays!
  • Encouraging students to take healthier options: Cafeteria staff work hard to make healthy school meals appealing to students and the cafeteria a warm and welcoming environment. Oftentimes, staff members are heard encouraging students to try their fruits and vegetables, and many students say the biggest smiles they see all day are in the lunch line.

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The School Nutrition Association has a presence in every state across the country. View links to many of the state associations to find out more about what SNA is doing nationwide. 

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