If you haven’t had a school lunch in a while, you should probably talk with Lynelle Johnson.
Johnson, the Food Service director for Williston Public School District No. 1, has worked to make the lunches schools serve healthy and appealing, and now she’s been honored for her work.
Earlier this month, she was named the Midwest Director of the Year by the School Nutrition Association. The nonprofit uses the award to recognize school nutrition directors who go above and beyond to great good good experiences for students.
In announcing the award, the group highlighted some of what Johnson has done in District 1. That includes working with students to create a menu when the district was building Williston High School, which opened in 2016, as well as getting a grant that provides students a free fresh fruit or vegetable snack three days a week.
The group also honored her for her grant-writing ability. Johnson used a grant to establish the high school’s Coyote Grounds Cafe, where students and faculty can buy coffee, snacks and meals.
“Lynelle Johnson brings her whole heart into her job, dedicating her time to ensure each child in her district has access to healthy, balanced and exciting school meal options,” SNA President Lynn Harvey said. “She is a great example of a school nutrition director, making a difference in students’ daily lives and in the community at large.”
Other achievements the group highlighted was the creation of shared tables at the district’s elementary schools. Students who buy lunch from school can leave their uneaten, unopened food on a table for other students to take if they don’t have enough food.
The program, which started earlier this year, started out really well, Johnson told the District 1 school board in February.
“Some kids were buying two milks just so they could donate one to the shared table,” she said.
Another effort the association brought up was District 1’s participation in “Pride of Dakota Day” in September, where school lunch menus in the district featured food grown or produced in the state. The day serves to highlight to students what food is made in North Dakota and to promote relationships with farmers and other producers.
In addition to her work with the district, Johnson is the Legislative Chair for the North Dakota School Nutrition Association.
In July, Johnson will be honored during an awards ceremony at the School Nutrition Association’s annual conference in Las Vegas.