Heather Torrey, Assistant Director of Burlington School District’s Burlington School Food Project (BSFP), has been voted Director of the Year by the School Nutrition Association of Vermont (SNA-VT), for her “trail-blazing approach to a year fraught with challenges for Vermont school nutrition programs.”
Facing unprecedented disruption over the past 12 months, Heather Torrey and the BSFP developed several innovative strategies for feeding communities during the pandemic, noted SNA-VT. Perhaps most notably, was their visionary Free Family Meal Kit program that provides children with seven days worth of meals in the form of both prepared foods and groceries. BSFP has built and distributed more than 20,000 meal kits since September 2020, representing 560,000 meals and snacks. Boxes can be picked up free of charge throughout Burlington on Wednesdays and Fridays every week. https://www.bsdvt.org/2020/09/16/free-family-meal-kits-wednesdays-and-fridays/
“School nutrition professionals have always played a critical role in supporting students’ well-being and success by providing nutritious meals to fuel academic achievement, but throughout the pandemic, these women and men have taken on the role of frontline heroes. In a year when so many could easily shrink from the challenges and take the “least effort needed” path, Heather led her team in innovation, reinventing Burlington’s foodservice model, supporting district nutrition directors statewide, advocating for Universal School Meals, and inspiring us with positivity,” said Karyl Kent, SNA-VT President.
“I am humbled and truly grateful to be recognized by my peers and colleagues for this award,” said Torrey. “This year has spared no opportunity to present new challenges and I feel very fortunate to work with the dedicated, inspiring, and talented School Nutrition Team here in Burlington. Thank you to my colleagues and good friends at SNA-VT for the camaraderie, teamwork, and patience with me when I have a wild idea. I could not have gotten through this year without the support from my school nutrition family!”
Because of Torrey’s passion for feeding children, this meal box program, made possible by federal USDA Waivers, was a recipe for success for school nutrition programs around the state. “One of the reasons Heather’s work stands out, in a year where so many school food programs did amazing things, was her willingness to share all the efforts she put into developing these meal boxes,” said Harley Sterling, Windham Northeast SU School Nutrition Director. “It seems simple enough, sending home groceries instead of prepared food, but it took a ton of work to map this out, from phone calls to the Agency of Education to building the spreadsheets that helped us all replicate BSFP’s success. It really shows a special commitment to feeding children throughout the state.”
“As a registered dietician, she has brought a higher level of credibility to Burlington School District,” said Doug Davis, Director of the Burlington School Food Project. “She has been so well-received by nurses and parents, especially around allergies, nutrient analysis, and on our Wellness Committee. This has been specifically relevant and impactful during our reopening work this year and our covid preparation.”
School Nutrition Association of Vermont, is the VT chapter of The School Nutrition Association (SNA), a national, non-profit professional organization representing 50,000 school nutrition professionals across the country. Founded in 1946, SNA and its members are dedicated to making healthy school meals and nutrition education available to all students. For more information on school meals, visit www.SchoolNutrition.org/SchoolMeals.