HOPE – The menu choices for Hope Public Schools students has changed significantly and, the look of the school cafeterias in the district is evolving to reflect a more relaxed atmosphere; two of the key improvements which can be credited to HPS Nutrition Director Deanna Gilbert, the 2017 School Nutrition Association Southwest Regional Director of the Year.
Gilbert was named Arkansas State Director of the Year in April, and was selected as the SNA regional winner on May 1.
The award recognizes extraordinary contribution in management of school meal programs that provide nutrition and appeal to student dining.
“Deanna’s passion for her job, her students and her district are represented in the number of positive programs and events she has spearheaded over the years,” Patricia Montague, CAE, and SNA Chief Executive Officer, said. “She is a great example of school nutrition directors who are invested in the well-being of their students, leading programs that promote healthy lifestyles and ensuring access to balanced, nutritious meals.”
Gilbert has been responsible for a number of innovations in the HPS nutrition program, including a complete revamping of the Hope High School cafeteria to resemble a restaurant or bistro dining experience. She has also implemented Grab and Go breakfasts at HHS, as well as a five-choice breakfast menu available every day in grades K-12.
Gilbert has also developed a summer nutrition program which was recently recognized by the US Department of Agriculture as a “Turnip the Beet Award” winner for its approach to summer period nutrition availability in the school district.
The Hope program was one of two statewide to be recognized by the USDA; the other program is located in Rogers.
“Gilbert is so beloved that there is nearly 100 percent retention rate among district staff, most of which have been in Hope Public Schools for a decade or more,” the SNA announcement noted.
She has also been credited with organizing the “Color Me” nutrition program in the primary grades, utilizing teachers, district staff and volunteers to participate in skits presented to students to teach healthy eating habits.
A 31-year employee of the Hope Public Schools, Gilbert began in food service preparation before becoming a cafeteria manager in 1987. She completed three years of study for certified managerial qualification in 1995, and she was named district nutrition director in 2006, completing certification in that position in 2008.
She is a member of the Arkansas School Nutrition Association, serving as district director, membership chair, state secretary, and state president. Gilbert currently serves as treasurer of the organization and has also been a member of the School Nutrition Association since 1997.
A native of Crossett, Gilbert is the wife of Dana Gilbert, and the couple has two daughters, Michele Gilbert and granddaughter Isabella, 12, of Little Rock, and Dana Umholtz, husband Curtis, and grandchildren Carly, 15, Carter, 7, and Connor, 5, all of Conway.
Gilbert is a member of Unity Baptist Church in Hope, where she is active in choir and the women’s auxiliary.
Gilbert will be recognized among the regional winners during ceremonies in July at the SNA National Conference in Atlanta, Ga.