Two representatives from the award-winning Manassas City Public Schools food and nutrition services received a special invitation to participate in a White House roundtable on school nutrition on Aug. 31.
Sandy Thompson and Cecily Anthony were the two proud envoys representing the school division—one of only 11 in Virginia recognized for outstanding work in providing healthy school meal, combating childhood hunger and promoting wellness in students, said Almeta Radford, public relations specialist with Manassas City Public Schools, said.
Thompson serves as the supervisor of administrative and health services while Anthony serves as the director of food and nutrition services for the Manassas school division.
"Learning that Mrs. Obama refers to our cafeteria ladies and gentlemen as 'school chefs;' I had read that a long time ago and forgotten about that. I now refer to them as the same," Anthony said."They work very hard and deserve such a title."
Sam Kass, White House assistant chef and senior policy adviser for Healthy Food Initiatives led the discussion with food service staffers. Kass also serves as the executive director of the national Chefs Move to Schools program.
In 2011, the school division began a partnership with Charles Gilliam, owner of Okra’s Louisiana Bistro in Manassas as part of the Chefs Move to Schools program. Gilliam and members of his team visited all schools in the division, exposing students to Okra’s New Orleans cuisine.
Radford said Manassas City Public School has plans to continue focusing on providing opportunities that promote healthy choices for students and families.
Students enjoy a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy gourmet side salads, whole grains and lower sodium options each day, she added.
"It was also great to know that Chef Kass is committed to communicating the many challenges school nutrition professionals are encountering as we embrace these new changes. One of those challenges is meeting the guidelines for the sodium requirements," Anthony said.
As a testament to school officials' work, the school division earned first place in the Virginia School Board Association (VSBA) Food for Thought Initiative in April.
Manassas City Public Schools has also been recognized in the VSBA database for best practices in nutrition and physical fitness.
"MCPS is very involved in promoting the healthy learner, as we know that students that eat healthy foods and exercise on a regular basis are able to learn in a holistic manner," Thompson said.