For more than 30 years, the School Nutrition Foundation has been raising funds to provide SNA members with the opportunity to achieve their higher education goals through a wide variety of scholarships. To date, SNF has awarded members over $2 million in scholarship funds. In our SNF Scholarship Series we will be aiming the spotlight at some of our scholarship winners and sharing their stories with you, including excerpts from their application essays and follow-up interviews.
Melinda Bonner’s fire was lit in Washington, D.C., after attending her first Legislative Action Conference in 2013. Describing it in her application essay as “the highlight of my career,” Bonner was inspired to dive into the policy aspects of school nutrition—and she hasn’t looked back.
“LAC brought to light just how involved a federal program we are,” explained Bonner. “Going to the Hill, sharing our stories with Congress, and making our representatives aware of what school lunch is like today is a great opportunity. It’s an opportunity to ask them, ‘Do you remember what school lunch was like when you were in school?’ and bring to light [for them] how much has changed.”
Bonner’s educational path wasn’t a traditional one; she worked steadily for fifteen years after earning her associate’s degree with a dietetic technician certification through the American Dietetic Association [now the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics] but realized she would need a four year degree to continue further. “I finished my bachelor’s degree in 2003, at 38 years old!” said Bonner. “I passed the board to be an RD at 40, and then I went into school nutrition. I will be graduating in May 2015 with my MBA, and I’ll be 50 years old!”
One of Melinda’s proudest accomplishment is her department’s increased use of technology to promote and educate students and the community about nutritional awareness and healthy eating. In addition to maintaining Hoover City Schools’ child nutrition website, Melinda shares school menus and positive nutrition messaging on Twitter. Bonner has found that negativity on Facebook can be overwhelming, and Twitter offers a safer space to share information with parents who still want information on school nutrition at their fingertips. “It’s one less piece of paper to hang on the wall,” explained Bonner. “Parents are Millenials who want information on their phone, not their refrigerator. This year we plan to have an app for HCS with many different services, including a place to check in with nutrition services. We encourage people to check our website, and we do online free/reduced applications—our paper use is very, very minimal.”
Balancing work with school is a challenge, but Bonner says you might be surprised at how interchangeable the two become once you get started. “As I have worked on this MBA, I’ve been able to use what I’m doing at work for my school projects. In Human Resources, when I’m writing essays, I draw on my work experiences. As an older, adult student, my eyes are more open to where these concepts apply.”
You can help SNA members achieve their educational goals by supporting the School Nutrition Foundation; click here to make a donation.