Meet the SNF 2016 Winston Industries Equipment Grant Award Winner Lori Drenth, Foodservice Director, Hernando County School District (FL)

When we asked Hernando County Schools’ Foodservice Director Lori Drenth, MS, RD, SNS, about the impact her new Winston kitchen equipment would have on her district’s nutrition program, she paused for a moment to consider her answer.

“Pride,” she replied. “It always feels like Christmas for a manager to get a new piece of equipment. It’s a great feeling—even for principals and students—to know your facility is being invested in, and we want [everyone] to know that food quality is our top priority. New equipment ensures that anyone who is eating with us—students, staff, parents—is getting the best food quality that we can provide. That is really important to us.”

Drenth credits her operations specialist Vonda Moonier with finding the grant, and getting the applications ready for submission.

“She’s been a great asset,” said Drenth. “Vonda came to me and said, ‘Lori, I know we can use equipment, let’s apply for these grants’ and I said great, write it up! We sat down, hashed out what we thought we needed, and submitted information for nine different facilities.”

As the 2016 winner of the Winston Industries Equipment Grant, Hernando County Schools will receive new equipment to install at several school sites. In-service training with Winston representatives will follow after installation, which Drenth hopes will begin in August. The new equipment will help Drenth and her staff improve both nutrition and the appearance of the food served, and create new menu items for students, all in an effort to boost access to and participation in school meals.

“We have a couple of schools where we would really like to increase our offerings on breakfast carts,” she explained. “We thought some of the equipment, specifically holding drawers, would work for us to increase participation in those breakfast programs. We have equipment that is 25 or 30 years old, so this is an opportunity for us. It leads to real pride for managers and kitchen staff, and they—and administrators—can say, ‘Hey, look at us, our foodservice is going above and beyond.’

Winston Industries "Guru" J.J. Jackson poses with the 2016 Winston Industries Equipment Grant winner Lori Drenth.

Winston Industries “Food Guru” J.J. Jackson poses with the 2016 Winston Industries Equipment Grant winner Lori Drenth.

Aging equipment is a problem for many school foodservice departments. While food costs far outweigh equipment costs, it can be hard to convince some districts to spend down a surplus, while other schools simply lack the funds to begin with. We spoke with Winston Industries’ “food guru” J.J. Jackson about his company’s commitment to giving back to the school foodservice sector of their clientele.

“Because you only buy equipment occasionally it makes it even more valuable,” said Jackson. “It’s expensive in ‘one fell swoop’, but the problem with [waiting] is that you’re running past your equipment’s life. Several schools don’t do budget forecasting for equipment, and that’s something we are hoping to focus on in the future through equipment seminars, learning events with directors to help us do that [forecasting].”

Jackson will be working with Drenth during the planning and implementation process, and both have promised to send us updates as the project moves forward.

“I just want to thank Winston and their support of SNA and SNF,” said Drenth. “Their support for foodservice programs and foodservice directors, and of [the organizations] is so important. I’m also lucky to have good administrative support; I can ask them to help us try something new, and they are so good about letting us try different things to see what works.”

As for the folks at Winston, the opportunity to give back is also giving them the chance to refine how they do business to better serve you, their school foodservice customer. If you’re thinking of applying for next year’s award, Jackson says you would be doing them—and your fellow SNA members—a big favor—plus, you might just win!

“Reviewing the applications offers us the chance to better understand what school districts need,” explained Jackson. “And now I can reach out to [applicants] and talk to them about other ways we can help, like our trade-up program where we offer schools up to $1000 back on some pieces of new equipment.”

Hernando County was the recipient of both the Baxter and the Winston Equipment Awards for 2016. Click to read more about the Winston Industries Equipment Grant, and check back in the Fall of 2016 for details on the next application period—you could be our next winner! 

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