During a time when families are counting on Food and Nutrition Services heroes to deliver meals to thousands of students while schools are closed, we are excited to celebrate the accomplishments and recent honor given to a Chesterfield County Public Schools cafeteria manager.
The School Nutrition Association (SNA) recently named Heather Blades, the cafeteria manager at Spring Run Elementary, the National Manager of the Year. This award is the highest honor a school cafeteria manager can receive and recognizes individuals who have demonstrated a dedication to improve their school meal program. The nomination process began before widespread COVID-19 school closures, but SNA recognizes the innovative efforts of school nutrition managers on the frontlines of emergency meal programs, ensuring students in need continue to access healthy meals.
Blades works hard to bring to life exciting initiatives such as “Rev Your Bev,” in which fresh fruit and herbs are infused into water to add flavor with no additional calories. She was also instrumental in adding a smoothie bike in the cafeteria, allowing students to make their own smoothies simply by pedaling. She has taught nutrition lessons to physical education students, and she even got the entire school community involved in the “Crunch Heard ‘Round the Commonwealth” event in which students, staff and teachers were encouraged to simultaneously take a bite of a Virginia-grown apple.
“Heather Blades exemplifies the strong work ethic and passion for school foodservice and nutrition education that makes programs successful,” SNA President Gay Anderson said. “Her creativity, hard work and dedication to her staff and students make her an ideal Manager of the Year.”
“We are excited to see Heather recognized for her outstanding work,” Superintendent Dr. Merv Daugherty said. “Our Food and Nutrition workers are true super heroes, working throughout this uncharted time to deliver more than 350,000 meals since schools were closed. This is a game changer for our families.”
Known for creating a fun and friendly atmosphere in the cafeteria, Blades decorates her serving lines for seasons and holidays throughout the year. The disco lunch she started, complete with neon glow lights and disco balls on the ceiling, was so popular with students it will likely become a monthly event.
“Heather goes out of her way to build rapport and show each child they are special by taking the time to share one-on-one conversation and lunch with a different student each day,” Daugherty noted.