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Elaine Harris of Paola USD 368 has won the 2019 Southwest Regional Director of the Year Award from the School Nutrition Association.

PAOLA — The national, non-profit School Nutrition Association (SNA) has announced that Elaine Harris from Paola USD 368 has won the 2019 Southwest Regional Director of the Year Award.

The award recognizes the extraordinary contributions of school nutrition directors who manage effective school meal programs providing healthy, appetizing meals to students, according to a news release.

Harris, along with five other Regional Director Award winners, will be honored during the Red Carpet Awards Ceremony at SNA’s 73rd annual national conference July 14 in St. Louis, Mo.

For the past eight years, Harris has dedicated herself to creating a financially secure department and finding grant funding for new equipment. She has also focused on adding scratch cooking to school menus, including gluten-free options, and increasing school meal participation across her district. Harris oversaw the implementation of student taste-tests, added whole grain menu options and installed a flavor station in the high school cafeteria, according to the release.

Harris also implemented the summer feeding program about four years ago. She also oversees an annual Serving Our Students (SOS) event held right before school starts. Harris’ staff has prepared food for various events, including the school’s dinner theatre and state legislators’ dinner, as well as providing meals for 150 students from the Frontier League Student Council and baking brownies for the elementary mother/son dance, according to the release.

For the past two years, Harris has also given tours of the kitchen to culinary students and explained the importance of time and temperatures in food preparation.

Harris organizes in-service training sessions and certification classes for her staff of 40 each year. Classes in recent years include Show Your Customers You Care, Food Safety Jeopardy, Control that Portion, Sodium Savvy and Safe Lifting Techniques, according to the release.

“Elaine Harris shows a great dedication and passion for school nutrition, always presenting a positive attitude that resonates throughout her staff and kitchens,” SNA President Gay Anderson said. “Her great leadership skills and can-do work ethic exemplifies what it means to be a director of the year.”

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