SNF Scholarship Series: #ANC17 First Timer Jessica Slabaugh, Chesapeake Public Schools, Virginia

Welcome to the 2017 School Nutrition Foundation Scholarship Series! We’re revisiting our annual series, in which we connect you with SNA colleagues from around the country to learn more about them, and how a Foundation scholarship is helping them pursue goals and achieve their dreams.

 Our First Timer scholarship recipients were nominated by a supervisor or director. First Timer scholarships help defray the cost of attending the Annual National Conference for first-time attendees. Visit our website to learn more about the SNF First Timer scholarships.

When ANC 17 First Timer Jessie Slabaugh first came to (Va.) six-and-a-half years ago, she split her time between driving a bus and helping in the cafeteria as a lunch monitor. The transition from stay-at-home-mom to full-time school nutrition professional was a gradual one, and today Slabaugh works in the school nutrition office handling procurement for 45 schools. In summer months, Slabaugh goes back to her bus-driving roots to operate the district’s “Cruisin’ Café”, a revamped activity bus—outfitted with warmers, coolers, and a hand sink—used for nutrition education and summer foodservice.

“I really like my job because it’s challenging,” she shared with us, during a telephone interview from her Virginia office. “Between 45 schools—and the managers, the leads, the site coordinators—I’m constantly busy helping them with orders. I’m always on the move!

“Now that we have the Cruisin’ Café I drive that during the school year—we take it to schools and our nutrition educator teaches a short nutrition lesson—and during the summer I drive it every day when we give away meals. We love it, it’s so much fun—the kids are so cute.”

As a longtime school nutrition director and SNF board member, Joanne Kinsey has a passion for professional development and she says Jessie stood out right away.

“I quickly learned Jessie was good at computers, and she immersed herself,” said Kinsey. “Whatever project you give her she goes into it 100 percent—plus. She learns everything she needs to know, and typically takes it to the next step on her own to make sure she understands how it works, and what she needs to do, and then works on enhancements to make the job streamlined. She anticipates things, she sees what needs to be done, and she fills that void.”

Whether it’s jumping in to help a colleague or bringing in her own scrapbook materials to create an eye-catching bulletin board, Kinsey says Slabaugh always goes the extra mile, which is why she submitted Jessie’s name for consideration for a 2017 ANC First Timer Award. When she won, Slabaugh says she was as surprised as she was excited.

“I was disappointed I wasn’t going [to ANC] but I wasn’t going to be able to afford to stay at a hotel, or the expense of traveling,” she recalled. “Ms. Kinsey took it upon herself to apply [for the scholarship] for me. She told me she was going to try to help, but I didn’t know what she meant, so when I received the email about the scholarship I was so surprised!”

“We’re driving [to Atlanta] so we’re taking a carload!” said Kinsey of the upcoming trip to ANC. “Jessie is really excited, and looking forward to it. I knew she’d be over-the-top when she found out she would get that recognition! I told her, ‘You’re going to be a different person when you get back from this experience.’ I’ve seen continued growth in her personally, and I want to support that. We have such a great team; the other people going along with us are very involved, so I think she’ll be energized by them as well.”

Looking ahead at to the conference, Kinsey says she’ll be advising Slabaugh on education session topics that might interest her the most.

“I’m going to be steering her into the administrative [sessions where] she can learn to grow from a supervisory standpoint,” said Kinsey. “I’ll be excited to get back and share and learn what everyone else learned. I’m looking forward to everyone having a great experience and coming back with new ideas we can incorporate for the 2017-18 school year.”

As for Slabaugh, she says she’s excited to meet other people who work in procurement, and to compare experiences. She’s also looking for opportunities to further broaden her horizons to better anticipate the needs of her colleagues, as well as her students.

“Prior to this job I’d never worked in procurement. I would like to talk with people who have handled that aspect of school nutrition. I’m also looking forward to getting new menu ideas. I don’t develop menus, but I’m in the meetings during development so I can verify we have the items. And I’m looking forward to meeting food reps, and gaining more knowledge on that side of things now that I’m starting to help with bids.”

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