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What drives the nation’s top foodservice operators? We asked the 2018 Silver Plate Class and got an inside look at what makes them the operator all-stars they are today. Find out what they have to say about their passion for foodservice, career accomplishments and what it means to be part of a legendary group of operators.



Ken Yant, Director of School Nutrition Program at Gwinnett County Public Schools received the 2018 Silver Plate Award in the Elementary & Seconday Schools category. Nominated by SunOpta.

What do you enjoy most about your career in foodservice?

I have been in foodservice in one aspect or another since I was 16 years old when I started out as a bus boy at a nearby resort in Ohio.  I really enjoy the people aspect of what we do.  The camaraderie I have had with all the people I have worked with during my career has been the most rewarding.  Additionally, it is amazing that I now get to work with and network with so many people who share the same passion and commitment that I do on a very noble endeavor – feeding our children.  I am fortunate that I have an amazing and incredible team and support staff who work so hard day in and day out to provide healthy and nutritious meals to our students. It is our customers, our students, who are the motivation to me to not only do what I do but to do what I enjoy doing.

Tell us about your biggest career accomplishment:

Aside from this award and previous awards I have received, it is having the opportunity to serve as the Director of School Nutrition for Gwinnett County Public Schools.  Gwinnett County is the largest school district in GA and 12th largest in the US, with an enrollment of 180,000 students.  It does not get much bigger or better than this.  Between breakfast and lunch, we serve over 31,000,000 meals annually and employ close to 1,500 school nutrition professionals.  Being able to lead a nationally recognized school nutrition program in a nationally recognized school district truly is an honor.

How is your segment making a difference for the foodservice industry?

Those of us who work in Elementary and Secondary schools segment do so because we are committed and passionate about feeding children.  We do not just feed students.  We encourage, support, and care for our students.  We provide nourishment to fuel academic achievement. We also provide meals to those in poverty who may not have access to meals outside of our breakfast and lunch programs.  No child should go hungry and what we do goes a long way to address that need.  It is certainly does not solve the problem of food insecurity for our students but it is a step in the right direction.

What advice do you have for someone new to the foodservice industry?

Have fun!!   Foodservice is a demanding profession and one that requires a lot of time and energy.  However, it is a “people” profession and you will interact with a diverse and wide-ranging group of people, whether they are your customers or your colleagues.  Teamwork truly does matter in foodservice. This industry is also very open to innovation and creativity so there are no boundaries or constraints on how far one can go based on their skills, commitment, and drive.

What does being an IFMA Silver Plate recipient mean to you?

This truly is an honor of the highest level in the foodservice industry.  I did not start my career with recognition and accolades in mind, nor is it why I do what I do.  I always strive to do my best regardless of the task, whether it is mowing the lawn to managing a $90 million foodservice operation.  To be recognized for what I consider “just doing my job” and joining such an esteemed list of previous Elementary & Secondary School winners is an honor I will remember for the duration of my career.


Join us at the 2018 IFMA Gold & Silver Plate Awards Celebration and help us in honoring Ken Yant and the rest of the Silver Plate Class. Click HERE for event information and to reserve your table now!