SNF Scholarship Series: ANC First Timer Darlene Birdsong, Cafeteria Manager, Redwood Elementary, Vicksburg Warren School District, Mississippi

Welcome to the 2016 SNF Scholarship Series! We are thrilled to revisit this popular series, in which we connect with your SNA colleagues from around the country to learn more about them and how an SNF scholarship is helping them pursue goals and achieve their dreams. Our First Timer recipients were nominated by a supervising director to attend their first Annual National Conference in San Antonio, Texas. We’ll meet our First Timers and their directors in the weeks leading up to ANC. Please visit the SNA website to learn more about ANC 2016 in San Antonio.

When we asked Darlene Birdsong, cafeteria manager at Redwood Elementary in the Vicksburg Warren School District, if her ANC First Timer award came as a surprise she burst into laughter.

“A complete surprise—I’m still surprised!” she said. “When Laura called me to tell me to check my email, I screamed so loudly she told me she couldn’t hear out of that ear anymore!”

‘Laura’ is Laura Bounds, Child Nutrition Director at Vicksburg Warren. (She has regained hearing in that ear, in case you were wondering.) When we asked Bounds why she nominated Birdsong for a First Timer award, she gave us several reasons.

“Ms. Darlene is really interested in learning,” she said. “She’s a self-made woman, she’s a good manager. Darlene is very in tune with her kids, she’s a wonderful wife, mother, and grandmother; she wants to grow, and she brings positivity to the school atmosphere.”

Bounds is no stranger to spotting talent. You may recall that another of her staff members, Sandy Hearn, is a 2016 School Nutrition Hero. The three will travel together to San Antonio for ANC 2016.

“I’m feeling pretty good about my staff right now!” said Bounds. “I urge them to continue to learn and broaden their horizons, and they are very passionate. I am very fortunate to have a great group of ladies—and a gentleman—who are all very passionate about the kids here.”

Birdsong has been to many state conferences over the course of her 25 years in school nutrition, and is ready to tackle her first ANC.

“I’ve been an SNA member from day one,” she said. “I’ve been working in school nutrition for 25 years, and I’ve been a manager for about twenty and I am so ready and excited for ANC. I’m ready to learn new things to bring back to my school, and to see new products. I want to bring back some new ideas, and introduce the kids to some new things, some new foods.”

“I think the education classes will be big for Ms. Darlene,” said Bounds. “That’s what she enjoys when we go to state conferences. I think the Exhibit Hall is just going to blow her mind!”

The opportunity to surprise Birdsong with a trip to San Antonio couldn’t be passed up, said Bounds, as Birdsong herself is full of surprises. Plus, she knows that “Ms. Darlene” will take her time at the conference and run with it when she returns to Redwood Elementary in the fall.

“She likes to surprise you every once in a while! She likes to grow, and she wants to learn and grow; she’s all about evolving. She brings that [attitude] into her work, into the school, and ANC will really give her room to grow.”

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