Is breakfast the most important meal of the day? Thanks to award winner Elaine East’s hard work, it’s certainly a more popular one, at least with the students of Pulaski Middle School.
East, the school’s nutrition manager, received the Louise Sublette Award at the School Nutritional Association’s state conference this past March in Virginia Beach, and a plaque of recognition for her victory from the national conference in Kansas City last month (she was unable to attend). The award is named in honor of Louise Sublette, a school nutrition leader in Tennessee for 43 years.
School Nutrition Association chapters across the state could submit for this award. The award is based on a manager’s creativity in taking an idea and developing it into an attainable goal. East’s goal was to increase breakfast participation. She gathered student feedback related to menu planning and popularity of the breakfast menu and presented her findings, some in graph form, in a booklet for the association’s evaluation.
“I did several projects, some on the side, but the main project which I won an award for was, I did a survey at Pulaski Elementary School that listed items for breakfast,” said East. “I asked students to say which they liked and which they didn’t like. I had to get authorization from Ethelene (Sadler, the School Nutrition Supervisor). They didn’t like some of the food items we had, like some of them didn’t like the French toast sticks but loved sausage biscuits. They loved basically anything on a biscuit, and the breakfast pizza. They didn’t like the pancakes and waffles, but we’ve changed that product to flavored mini pancakes that come in maple or strawberry. Pillsbury puts them out. They come in their own little packets, so we can track the portions. The syrup is already in it, so that’s less sugar and it’s better for them. They like biscuits. Sausage, chicken, bacon and egg … I mean, it’s just a wide variety.”
Over a specific period she measured participation, and her data revealed a 30 percent increase in breakfast meal participation thanks to her efforts. “As far as I know, I’m the first winner for our disctrict, 6-D, which is Pulaski County, Floyd County, Montgomery County and Radford,” said East. “Nobody that I know of has ever won it before in our chapter. As far as I know, I’m the only one.
“I want to say there were four or five people from the state of Virginia who applied. I didn’t keep count, because to be honest, I didn’t think I was going to win.”
There doesn’t seem much likelihood that East will let it go to her head, though; even if she were so inclined, she says she recalls what another association member told her in Virginia Beach:“’All this means is, honey, you’re the top dog lunch lady for the state of Virginia,’” she quoted.
“It’s a great honor. It was a great surprise. I’ve learned a lot,” she said of her win. “I’ve learned to get closer to the students. I’m really honored that I got it. It makes me want to do my job a step further.”