GREAT FALLS — Jessa Younger, director of nutrition services for Great Falls Public Schools, has been recognized by the School Nutrition Association for her work.
She is one of only six school food service directors nationwide to be named as a 2022 regional director of the year by the organization.
"Initially, I think the reaction is proud because so many of our staff have worked so hard over the course of the last couple of years,” Youngers said when asked how she reacted to receiving national recognition for her work.
"The recognition I think from the district and the professional organization was really just validation that how we handle feeding kids or providing access to meals for students through the course of the pandemic was what we needed to be doing and was effective for students and families in our community,” said Youngers.
The award provides this information:
Jessa Youngers is described as having great vision and working hard to accomplish goals, one of which was providing improved student access to breakfast. By transitioning some of the district’s traditional cafeteria breakfast programs to Breakfast in the Classroom (BIC) programs, she was able to feed an additional 500 students a day.
Youngers has found ways to streamline processes and overcome obstacles from supply chain disruptions and staffing shortages. She has incorporated new technology into daily operations. The district now uses electronic forms and tools for ordering, to better manage inventory and prevent last minute menu changes.
Youngers’ thoughtful insights were used to help the district design kitchens for two new elementary schools and a high school. Her ideas ensured all the needs were accounted for and solutions were in place to maximize efficiencies for staff and students.
Jessa Youngers has been commended for her dedication to the well-being of her staff. She has brought in experts to provide employees with tools to help cope with stress and self-care. She also recognizes the value of growing leaders from within her team and fosters the professional development and advancement of employees.
Youngers has worked to develop relationships with district administrators and school staff members outside her department. Her transparency and willingness to help others understand the details and requirements of USDA programs has prompted recognition from school board members.
"School nutrition professionals are so often the unsung heroes,” said Diane Pratt-Heavner of the School Nutrition Association.
"This awards program was really designed to gather and lift stories of these amazing men and women who are working every day not only to provide school students a healthy meal but also to be a friendly face in the cafeteria,” Heavner-Pratt added.
So what made Jessa stand out?
"Jessa is a great example of the qualities we're looking for in our directors of the year. Her efforts to expand school breakfasts and make sure kids have access to healthy meal to kick off their day. It's so impressive,” said Pratt-Heavner
“I think the pandemic got everybody down, right? Everybody was working super hard to make things work, so I do feel like it's sort of a re-energizer. I hope that our staff can look at it from that perspective as well,” Youngers said.
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