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Weber earns nutrition specialist credential, earns award for breakfast

March 13, 2019
J.T. Whitehouse , The Town Crier

On Feb. 13, Austintown Food Service Director Alexis Weber took an exam that gave her the credential of School Nutrition Specialist (SNS). The designation of SNS will include an increased ability to manage a complex food service operation like the one in Austintown schools. It is also a formal recognition of professional achievement at a national level.

To earn the SNS credential, a candidate must take an exam after qualifying by meeting a set of standards.

"SNA of Ohio offered the scholarship to its members this past fall for the 2019 calendar year," Weber said. "I applied for the scholarship because I met the requirements to take the exam, which include my bachelor's degree in food and nutrition from Youngstown State University, my credential as a Registered Dietitian, and my work experience in school food service."

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Food Service Director Alexis Weber

The scholarship Weber received covered the cost of the test, which was $225. There are also materials Weber obtained and had to study to be prepared for the exam. While earning the SNS credential was a great achievement, the Austintown Food Service Department doesn't stop there. Another recognition was received last month for the breakfast program.

Austintown Elementary School (AES) received the 2018 Rising Star Award from the Ohio School Breakfast Challenge. This award is sponsored by the American Dairy Association, Ohio Action for Healthy Kids, Children's Hunger Alliance, Ohio School Nutrition Association and Ohio Department of Education. The Rising Star Award was earned by AES for increasing breakfast participation.

"AES is the only building who received this award," Weber said. "The award is granted based on a 30-percent increase in breakfast participation from the previous school year."

She said the increase comes from her staff listening to the students.

"We choose menu items they enjoy and try to streamline our cafeteria so getting breakfast is fast and easy for them," Weber said. "We also remind families are all of our schools offer several breakfast options each day."

Austintown presently serves 800 breakfasts each morning. That amount comes in at close to 20 percent of the student population on the Austintown campus.

When all is said and done, it comes down to keeping it fresh for the students

"Children's tastes and appetites change, and we try to offer items that the students will enjoy," Weber said. "For example, at Fitch High school this year we implemented a new liquid coffee machine and cafe area where students can customize their own hot or iced coffee beverages. We promoted the new machine to ensure the students knew about this new offering and also got their feedback on what they were looking for in our coffee offerings."

Weber said for the future, the food service programs need flexibility and creativity. Menus need to be kept fresh with customized menu options and more choices that will be part of the future of food service.



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