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Hoover schools child nutrition director wins Southeast award – 280 Living

Posted: July 5, 2021 at 1:49 am

The national nonprofit School Nutrition Association has named Melinda Bonner, who is the director of food and nutrition services for Hoover City Schools, as the groups Southeast regional Director of the Year.

Its the first time a child nutrition director from Alabama has won the award.

Bonner has 35 years of food and nutrition service experience and has been working in schools for 15 years. She previously worked in hospitals and nursing homes, and she took over as director of the food and nutrition program for Hoover City Schools eight years ago.

The Director of the Year award recognizes extraordinary contributions of school nutrition directors who manage effective school meal programs that provide healthy, appetizing meals to students.

As winner of the Southeast regional award, Bonner was chosen among nominees from nine Southeastern states, including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

Melinda Bonner puts her whole heart into her job, dedicating her time to ensure each child in her district has access to healthy, balanced and appetizing school meal options, School Nutrition Association President Reginald Ross said.

She oversees 109 child nutrition staff in the schools and two others in the central office. Since taking the lead role for Hoover City Schools, Bonner has worked to increase efficiency and productivity of the cafeterias.

She streamlined elementary school serving lines and added high school coffee shops offering grab-n-go smart snacks and refrigerated vending machines at various locations, as well as implemented a healthy classroom snack program. Students can use their child nutrition program accounts at any of the alternate serving options, which greatly increased school meal access.

Bonner also led an effort to convert a retired school bus to a school meal food truck called Meals In Motion, feeding kids at alternate locations during the summer, such as the Hoover Public Library and apartment complexes.

When schools were shut down due to COVID-19 in the spring of last year, Hoovers child nutrition staff continued working, providing about 36,000 meals to children with curbside service between March and the end of May, Bonner said.

Then, during the summer of 2020, school nutrition workers served about 60,000 more meals, Bonner said. Because of the pandemic, the U.S. Department of Agriculture allowed schools to expand their summer feeding program to include areas outside of lower-income school zones.

This summer, meals will be served from summer schools at Hoover and Spain Park high schools and a literacy camp at Gwin Elementary School, as well as curbside service from Berry and Bumpus middle schools and the Hoover Public Library, Bonner said.

In an effort to attract students and make the cafeteria more fun, Bonner has encouraged managers to decorate, dress up in costume and offer activities during National School Lunch and Breakfast Weeks and to offer food-themed days. Decorations, bulletin board supplies and resources are provided to the school cafeteria managers in conjunction with the special menus to increase student engagement.

Bonner also looks for ways to educate her staff and give them new training opportunities, coordinating guest speakers and connecting members with experts to teach them new skills. During National School Lunch Week, Bonner invites the mayor, City Council, school board and superintendent to serve meals in school cafeterias, providing an opportunity to share a firsthand look at federal requirements and national meal program mandates.

She spent six years on the Alabama School Nutrition Board and served as the School Nutrition Foundations ambassador for the 2019-20 school year. She also encourages other staff to attend School Nutrition Association training and conferences. The School Nutrition Association has about 50,000 members across the country.

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Hoover schools child nutrition director wins Southeast award - 280 Living

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