LL nutritional director honored

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What do Walt Disney movies and farm fields have to do with school lunch programs? You’d be surprised.

What do Walt Disney movies and farm fields have to do with school lunch programs? You’d be surprised.

Deborah Fox-News-Bulletin photo: Los Lunas Schools Nutritional Director Angela Haney received Outstanding Director of the Year from the National School Nutrition Association at the annual nutrition association conference in Kansas City.

Los Lunas Schools Nutritional Director Angela Haney has used both in her mission to feed children healthy meals.

Haney’s creativity has earned her a national award — Outstanding Director of the Year — from the National School Nutrition Association. The award was announced in July at the annual conference in Kansas City, Mo.

Haney has been with the district for seven years. She came to Los Lunas after eight years as the student nutrition director at Central Consolidated Schools in Shiprock.

Through the years, she has learned by trial and error what students like to eat, leading to innovative creations to get children to eat healthier.

The usual student favorites include pizza, chicken nuggets and hamburgers. Haney’s own favorites were grilled cheese sandwiches and chili mac, but new federal regulations require more vegetables, fruits and whole wheat.

White-flour breads and tortillas may be tasty, but they have very little nutritional value, so Haney became a cuisine detective searching for the best, soft and flexible whole-wheat tortillas she could find.

Not only did she find them, but they are made in New Mexico. She could please student appetites and support the New Mexico economy at the same time.

When the Disney animated movie about a mouse named “Ratatouille” came out in 2007, Haney took advantage of the blockbuster’s popularity to get elementary students to eat more vegetables.

The French dish, ratatouille is made with eggplant, bell peppers and squash in a tomato sauce, she said.

“I thought, OK, we’ll give it a try,” she said.

Teachers at some of the elementary schools in the district worked with Haney, encouraging their students to give it a try.

“Oh, look, it’s like the movie,” they told their students. “Remember the mouse Ratatouille? Here’s what ratatouille is.”

It went over really well, Haney said.

She is also not an uncommon sight in farm fields, Every summer, she tries to visit local farms where the district buys food.

“You don’t want to buy from just anybody,” she says. “You need to make sure that what you’re buying is going to be safe. Sometimes the only way you can really tell is if you visit the farm and see what’s there.”

Many of her food program’s fruit and vegetables are bought from local farmers, and Haney participates in the Farm-to-School Project started by the New Mexico Department of Agriculture, Santa Fe Public Schools and Cooking with Kids.

She helped develop Breakfast After the Bell legislation to increase students’ access to healthy breakfast.

In making the selection for the award, the state and national student nutrition associations look at service to the community, innovation, and how much the candidate has worked for the organization, Haney said.

“School nutrition directors lead programs that must appeal to student preferences and balance student needs while adhering to complex nutrition and food safety standards,” said Sandra Ford, president of the School Nutrition Association, in a press release.

“Angela has excelled in her ability to rise to these challenges, running the Los Lunas Schools meal program on a very tight budget and exhibiting tremendous dedication and commitment to students.”

Within Los Lunas Schools, Haney has added 15 sites in the summer meals program, expanded the after-school snack program, as well as helped pass Breakfast After the Bell legislation. It allows breakfast to be served in the classroom during class time to ensure that every student has access to breakfast.

Haney was the state Student Nutrition Association president in 2010-11, and has been on the board for several years. She is currently the secretary, and is also on the national research committee.

“In Los Lunas, we try to do the very best for our students,” Haney said. “It’s nice to be recognized, and it does reflect well on us.

“It’s great that I’ve had the flexibility that I have because not every superintendent or supervisor is happy about having their student nutritional director tramping through a field in the summer; they’d prefer to have them in their office.”


-- Email the author at dfox@news-bulletin.com.