Highland cook wins nutrition award


STILLMAN VALLEY – Angie Benedict, the head cook at Highland Elementary School in Meridian Community Unit School District 223, is the recipient of the Illinois State Board of Education's 2019 School Nutrition Champion Award.

This is the third year for the award from the agency's Nutrition Division.

Benedict was nominated by Joe Mullikin, the principal at Highland Elementary. In his nominating letter, he wrote, “Mrs. Benedict seeks to constantly provide students with a supportive and encouraging environment during both lunch and breakfast. She has worked to create unique menus that are both healthy and allow students to widen their palates.”

Mullikin also praised Benedict for her efforts to increase participation in breakfast. She has offered “bring your buddy to breakfast,” themed breakfasts, dance parties, and more.

“All of this helps to increase the numbers of students who are taking advantage of the breakfast program and are able to start their days off with a full stomach,” he saied.

This past year, Benedict initiated “lunchroom helpers,” where students take a leadership role in making sure the lunchroom is clean and organized.

“At our building our vision is that students will ‘love to learn and learn to lead.’ Mrs. Benedict consistently provides leadership opportunities for students and provides them with encouragement,” Mullikin wrote.

Her nomination also highlights alternate meals and options for students who have a variety of allergies and intolerance. There are also new lunch tables and repainted walls with inspirational quotes to inspire students and staff.

“As the building principal, I have been consistently impressed with Mrs. Benedict’s ability to both connect with students and encourage them. She refers to them all by their first name, smiles, hugs, and generally provides them with a great interaction every day."

The School Nutrition Champion Award is announced on School Lunch Hero Day (May 3). An ISBE selection committee reviewed nominations received from across the state. Anyone could nominate a school nutrition professional for the award. The deadline for nominations was March 31. The winner is honored at the Nutrition Division’s annual School Nutrition Programs Back to School Conference. Nominees are featured in The Outlook, ISBE’s monthly newsletter for School Nutrition Programs.

Previous winners of ISBE's School Nutrition Champion Award are:
Sandy Voss, director of Food and Nutrition Services for Marquardt School District 15 in Glendale Heights
Sandra Duniphan, the cafeteria manager for Pontiac-William Holliday School District 105 in Fairview Heights