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 School Nutrition Champion Award


Who is eligible? Individuals employed at public or private schools in Illinois working with the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, and/or Seamless Summer Option.

Who can nominate a school nutrition professional? Anyone can nominate a school nutrition professional for the ISBE School Nutrition Champion Award. This includes students, parents, community members, and other district and school staff. You can even nominate yourself.

Scoring: A committee of ISBE staff will select a winner based on career history and qualifications and how they go above and beyond. Administrative reviews for the related sponsor will also be considered.

Deadline: Nomination forms must be submitted no later than 5 p.m. April 15, 2024. Nominees and the winner will be highlighted in May issue of the The Outlook newsletter.


​Meet the 2023 ISBE School Nutrition Champion!

The Illinois State Board of Education Nutrition Department is excited to announce the 2023 ISBE School Nutrition Champion. This year’s award goes to Katie Ford, the head cook for Shawnee CUSD 84 in Wolf Lake. Katie was first hired as an assistant cook in May 2017. The district has one kitchen that serves three schools, Shawnee Elementary School, Shawnee Jr. High School, and Shawnee High School.

Katie was nominated by Shawnee CUSD 84 Superintendent Shelly Clover-Hill. In her nominating submission, she wrote:

“When Katie took over as head cook in 2020, she made it her mission to improve our school meals and that is still true today. She actively seeks the input of the students and staff in the development of the menus Katie takes great pride in offering meals that will be eaten and not thrown in the garbage. She is also a master at getting the students to try new foods and adds those menu items when the vast majority of students ask for it again.”

Some of the best practices and accomplishments highlighted in the nomination credited to Katie’s hard work and leadership included:

  • Lunchroom participation in holidays and special events such as Halloween, Homecoming Week, and FFA Week. “Katie and the two assistant cooks can also be counted on to participate in all of the fun school activities ... They are known to randomly dress up or make meals to go along with a theme such as green eggs and ham for Dr. Seuss Week.”
  • The district was awarded a School Lunch Rocks grant from the Jackson County Health Department.
  • With grant funding, the district purchased a salad bar station and they plan on having it up and running for the 2023-24 school year.
  • Exterior walk-in cooler and freezer upgrades: “For decades, we could not afford new units. Luckily, this year we were able to purchase a walk-in cooler and freezer with Katie's assistance. She made sure the new units would fit our needs now and in the future.”
  • Perfect scores from the county health department.

“Katie creates positive relationships with so many by doing little things to make everyone feel special. Her positivity is infectious and very much appreciated. Shawnee CUSD#84 is lucky to have her as part of our school family!”

Meet all of this year’s nominees for the ISBE School Nutrition Champion Award in the May 2023 issue of The Outlook.

Previous winners of ISBE's School Nutrition Champion Award are:

  • 2022: Steve Ebbesmeyer, the food service director for Belleville District 118; Darla Kasperek, a food service bookkeeper/administrative assistant for Rich Township High School District 227; and Mary Nowak, the kitchen manager at Whiteside Middle School, Whiteside School District 115
  • 2019: Angie Benedict, the head cook at Highland Elementary School in Stillman Valley, Meridian Community Unit School District 223
  • 2018: Sandy Voss, director of Food and Nutrition Services for Marquardt School District 15 in Glendale Heights
  • 2017: Sandra Duniphan, the cafeteria manager for Pontiac-William Holliday School District 105 in Fairview Heights​​​

 The Outlook

ISBE's monthly newsletter for School Nutrition Programs includes best practices and recognition news, as well as upcoming events and important information about state and federal regulations.

ISBE Nutrition Department newsletters

 Public Act 094-0190

Effective on July 12, 2005, this State of Illinois Public Act ensures the Illinois State Board of Education continues to take measured steps to recognize excellence in school nutrition and wellness.

Illinois General Assembly: Public Act 094-0190

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