Deming Public Schools nutrition leader receives national award
DEMING – Ginger Jones has a passion for the work she does for the Deming Public Schools. As director of school nutrition, Jones is on the front line of serving 4,000 free meals a day as part of the school district’s nutrition department.
Jones’ passion has been recognized by the nonprofit national School Nutrition Association as the recipient of the 2020 West Regional Director of the Year Award.
“It is a great honor to receive the School Nutrition Association (SNA) West Regional Director of the Year award,” Jones told the Headlight. “I am humbled; as this award represents the passion I have for ensuring students are ready for success by providing balanced, healthy and nutritional meals.”
The SNA award recognizes the extraordinary contributions of school nutrition directors who manage effective school meal programs providing healthy, appetizing meals to students. While the nomination process began before widespread COVID-19 school closures, SNA also recognizes the expansive efforts of school nutrition directors to manage current emergency feeding programs, ensuring needy students continue to access healthy meals.
DPS Student Nutrition is a self-supporting department under the federally funded USDA. Due to the stringent meal patterns for schools, the department is required to regulate calories, sodium, fat and other ingredients which can hinder good nutrition for a healthful life.
Jones said the department serves 3,360,000 meals a year students. On a daily basis, 75% of district students eat breakfast and 95% of district students eat lunch. “Currently, under the COVID-19 pandemic, we are serving 4,000 meals daily at 53 bus stops, 7 school sites, 3 day cares and Palomas, Mexico,” Jones added.
Over 20 years working in a district with a diverse population, Jones has made a positive impact, increasing daily meal participation from 5,000 to 17,000. Networking with district leaders has been essential to her success in increasing district participation.
Over her career, Jones has implemented Breakfast After the Bell, Summer Feeding and After School Snacks. She also initiated New Mexico Grown Fresh Fruit, Vegetable and the USDA Fresh Fruit and Vegetable programs. She started a Roadrunner Food Bank backpack program as well as district food pantries. Most recently, she has implemented mobile food trucks for summer feeding meal service.
As part of New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s Child Hunger Initiative “Preventing Child Hunger in NM,” Jones hopes to increase the use of mobile food trucks to expand Summer Feeding sites. Other efforts to narrow the gap of food insecurity in the area include utilizing leftover shelf stable food for the Backpack Program for weekend feeding, providing leftover hot meals during holiday breaks, and also offering a Supper Program.
“As partners in education, the Student Nutrition staff is at work well before most are even awake where education, nutrition, and customer service unite to enhance and inspire our students to become our future leaders,” Jones said. “Our department strives to alleviate childhood hunger within Luna County. We provide healthy school meals through the National School Breakfast, Lunch, After School Snack, Seamless Summer Lunch and other USDA programs for our students.”
Jones promotes and celebrates the work of her team through a monthly district newsletter, and department website, Facebook page and Twitter account, which keep the district, community and parents informed.
She advocates for child nutrition and health throughout the community, helping to host a dental service event for children, attending community organization meetings and serving on numerous community committees.
She chairs the district Wellness Policy Committee “SHAC” and collaborates with the community and district with the free utilization of student nutrition kitchens for fundraisers.
Jones recognizes education and training are important to the success of her team. She provides 66 school nutrition employees with monthly training on everything from technical skills to work-time management. She uses various forms of technology to ensure her team is knowledgeable in federal, state and district regulations, policies and procedures.
As many of her employees are Spanish-speaking, she provides translation services at all trainings to guarantee all employees have an equal opportunity to learn. Therefore, she ensures compliance is met in all areas.
In her 15 years as an SNA member, Jones has served at several different levels within SNA. She supports state and national legislation in Washington D.C. and hosts food shows, trainings and meetings at her district for New Mexico SNA. Jones coordinates district membership for employees to utilize SNA resources, encouraging them to attend conferences, trainings, meetings and participate in SNA’s commitment to child nutrition advocacy.
Jones encourages her team to think outside of the box understanding the importance of good nutrition and the effect it has on academic performance. “Ginger Jones works to ensure that students, staff and the community have a positive school nutrition experience,” said SNA President Gay Anderson, SNS. “She exemplifies the impact that dedicated directors can have in their student’s lives and communities.”
The regional director of the year award was created to recognize school nutrition directors who exhibit an extraordinary commitment to their school meal programs. The directors are responsible for maintaining the quality of the program through student interaction, menu planning and a commitment to serving nutritious, tasty and well-balanced school meals. Through effective oversight of all aspects of food service operations, including budgeting, staffing, training, marketing and community outreach, school nutrition directors ensure the overall success of school meal programs.
Bill Armendariz can be reached at 575-546-2611 (ext. 2606) or email@example.com.
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