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Rhonda Huffman, nutrition supervisor for Roanoke County Public Schools, recently won a regional director of the year award.

Roanoke County Public Schools’ nutrition services supervisor recently received a regional director of the year award for her efforts to improve and expand the district’s meal service.

Rhonda Huffman was named Southeast regional director of the year by the nonprofit School Nutrition Association. The award “recognizes the extraordinary contributions of school nutrition directors who manage effective school meal programs providing healthy, appetizing meals to students,” according to a news release. The region encompasses nine states.

When Huffman took over as supervisor in 2015, the district’s meals service was close to being outsourced after bleeding money for three years. Under Huffman’s watch, a deficit turned into a half-million dollar surplus, according to previous reporting.

Huffman implemented a Second Chance breakfast program, which allowed students to receive breakfast a little later in the day, and added grab-and-go offerings, which increased breakfast sales nearly four-fold, according to the release.

She also added summer feeding programs at certain schools, and her staff tweaked menus to make recipes more appealing to students.

“She understands that championing staff and promoting the amazing things they’re doing in and out of school kitchens supports a successful school meal program,” said School Nutrition Association President Gay Anderson.

Huffman has been in school food service for more than 20 years.

Families receive pandemic food cards

In an effort to help families during school closures who rely on free and reduced-price meals, the Virginia Department of Social Services has been approved to give up to $376 per student in pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer to families of school-aged children.

Families will receive the benefits if their students receive free or reduced-price meals, according to the department. Families will also automatically receive benefits if their children attend schools that provide all students with free meals through the Community Eligibility Provision.

The latter includes every Roanoke school except Crystal Spring and Grandin Court elementary schools. Families at those schools can still apply for free or reduced-price meals if they haven’t already, according to the district.

Eligible households already receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits will see the new benefits loaded onto their existing card. All other families will be mailed an EBT card. Those who don’t need the benefits are instructed to cut the card.

While Virginia schools have continued to provide meals during the closures, Department of Social Services Commissioner Duke Storen said fewer meals on average being served than a typical school day.

“The P-EBT program will enable us to help fill this gap and provide critical food assistance to families so that children in Virginia do not go hungry during this crisis,” Storen said.

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