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Grow Food Northampton congratulates Mistelle Hannah, new Food Services Director for Northampton Public Schools.
When the position of Food Services Director for the Northampton Public Schools opened up this summer, Grow Food Northampton was asked by the district to join a hiring committee that would interview and recommend candidates. As the only non-district stakeholder to participate, we considered the invitation an honor and a meaningful recognition of our role in the schools and the local food system.
We are thrilled with the outcome! Mistelle Hannah, who started on August 21, has the experience and passion to bring more local and healthy food into the cafeteria offerings. Mistelle obtained her Masters of Public Health degree from UMass Amherst. She is also a Licensed Dietitian/Nutritionist with experience in public school and hospital settings, including as Food Service Director of the Gill-Montague School District. Her work there was featured in this profile from Mass Farm to School.
The Food Service Director for the District plays a very important role: they are responsible for providing breakfast, lunch and snacks to elementary, middle school and high school students in a way that juggles the needs and wants of kids and their families, strict Federal nutrition guidelines, the District’s bottom-line, and much more. They source food, manage kitchen staff, are the public face of school food in the community, and balance budgets.
Michael Skillicorn, the Director of Programs for Grow Food Northampton, said about his experience on the hiring committee:
“As someone who often skipped the lunch line in elementary school because of the poor quality of the food, it was an exciting opportunity to participate in the hiring of the next Food Service Director for the Northampton Public Schools – a person who will have the mandate to improve school food for the betterment of students and the community. While we evaluated candidates through the lens of the overall needs of the district, I was certainly interested in their values about sourcing local food and providing nutritious, fruit and vegetable-based meals. Since we already work with so many students (over 900 this year!) in the classroom, on the farm, and through our food access programs, I get really excited about the idea of integrating our work into the cafeteria. There’s so much potential to have an impact on the health of students and their connection to local farms and food.”
In recommending her to NPS Superintendent John Provost, the search committee remarked, “Mistelle is the Food Services Director Northampton wants.”
Grow Food Northampton is excited to be working with Mistelle. We’ll be meeting in September to discuss ideas like participation in the Mass Farm to School Harvest of the Month program and a procurement audit, and to hear more about Mistelle’s plans once she has settled in. Over time, we are optimistic that with community support, Mistelle and the District will make significant progress in health and local sourcing, as well as making connections between the cafeterias and the food and farm/garden programming that we and others provide. We hope to be a strong partner in those efforts!