2015 SNF Scholarship Series: Jason Mills, Nutrition Services Consultant, Jefferson County Public Schools

JasonMillsOne of our favorite aspects of ANC 2015 was the opportunity to connect with the many SNA/SNF scholarship recipients in attendance. In the coming weeks we will be sharing their stories with you: who they are, where they are from, and how their SNA/SNF scholarship made a difference in their personal, educational, and professional lives.

Our first scholarship recipient in the spotlight is Jason Mills of the Jefferson County Public School district in Louisville, KY. Jason is a longtime resident of Louisville, having graduated from local Butler High in 2001. He completed his B.A. in Food and Beverage Management at Sullivan University in 2014, and is now pursuing his bachelor’s degree in Business Administration at the same institution—and he hasn’t dismissed the possibility of going forward with his master’s degree after that!

We recently sent Jason a few questions and he was kind enough to write back with his answers about the importance of SNA membership, how receiving SNA/SNF scholarships made going back to school possible, and what it’s like to sit for the SNS credentialing exam.

BB: What are your thoughts and feelings on SNA membership, and resources like SNF scholarships?

JM: I feel that the availability and continued upkeep of SNA resources is crucial to those who wish to stay at the top of their game, and better themselves personally and professionally. Please continue to award and recognize those who are deciding to further educate themselves. Thank you so much to SNA, and the Foundation for the awards I and many others have received.

BB: What SNA/SNF awards have you received, and how have they helped you achieve your goals?

JM: In 2013 I won a $2500 Schwann scholarship and $2500 Winston [Industries scholarship], and then was awarded $1000 from each again this past June. I applied for awards because the cost of college is outrageous. I’m raising a family of four so all of my earned income goes directly to them. My goal was to use financial aid only for tuition; but books, parking, etc. was getting hard to pay for out of my own pocket. These scholarships took the strain off college expenses and allowed me to put more focus on my education and money into the family, which of course are my overall goals.

BB: Tell us about sitting for the SNS exam!

JM: The SNS experience … the first go-round (without the study guide) was quite difficult. I had only been working in the central office for two years when I applied to take the SNS. I still had a lot to learn, and way too many references to get me there. Needless to say, I did not pass. Thank you SNA for creating and making the study guide available. I felt much more confident after taking the SNS in Salt Lake. (Don’t hold those words against me if my name isn’t on the next SNS recipient list—LOL!)

BB: In your opinion, what is the single biggest challenge facing school nutrition professionals today, and what does the future hold?

JM: The hardest challenge facing SN professionals isn’t keeping up with the rapidly-changing nutrition guidelines, because from what I’ve seen we all rock. All of us have done, and will continue to do, a phenomenal job maintaining compliance. The hardest aspect moving forward, however, will be maintaining and/or increasing student participation at a time when healthy food isn’t appealing and there is a stigma associated with school lunch. To combat this trend we have to keep employee morale up, strategically market, and provide exceptional customer service to our students.

School meals are healthy and nutritious, and soon enough we will reverse the stigma associated with them. We’re teaching students how to make healthy food choices and that’s a lesson that lasts a lifetime.

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