Meet Dani Sheffield, Executive Director, Child Nutrition Services at Aldine Independent School District. Dani received the 2021 Silver Plate Award in the Elementary & Secondary Schools category, and was nominated by Cargill, Land O'Lakes, General Mills, and Ruiz Food Products.
This video is brought to you with support of Kellogg's Away From Home.
Interview: What Drives the Nation's Top Foodservice Operators?
We asked the 2021 Silver Plate Class to share some perspectives and words of wisdom with the industry. 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.
How did you get your start in the foodservice industry?
My interest in the food service industry actually began in my childhood with a passion for baking that still exists today. The process of drifting into the foodservice industry included teaching culinary arts to high school students in public schools, then migrating to school nutrition programs where food production is a main function.
What do you enjoy most about your career in foodservice?
I love the opportunity for new and creative marketing initiatives that result in student interest and increased meal participation. The second most enjoyment is experiencing the growth and development of staff that contributes to individual and program success. And finally, the vast networking and support among peers in school nutrition programs. We openly share our successes and challenges because there is no competition among our segment. Feeding children is our common mission.
Tell us about your biggest career accomplishment.
My biggest career accomplishment has been the vision, planning, approval, and completion of a 42,000 square foot Child Nutrition Center that houses central staff, includes ten training rooms, a culinary kitchen, a nutrition learning lab and garden. The facility provides opportunities for staff, students, parents and the community.
How have you kept yourself and your team motivated this past year?
Actually, seeing my staff have no hesitation or fear of being on the frontlines since March 2020 has been a huge motivator. My staff have expanded what I thought they were capable of doing, but in a much bigger capacity. Serving meals during the pandemic simply demonstrates who we are and what we do in school nutrition.
What advice do you have for someone new to the foodservice industry?
I would advise anyone to confirm their passion for foodservice prior to entering the industry and seek all areas and opportunities that exist. Then, stay the course with courage and motivation always seeking continuous improvement.
What does being an IFMA Silver Plate recipient mean to you?
It confirms my passion for the food service industry from childhood to retirement. Winning this esteemed award allows me to reflect on an incredible career journey and take note of the wonderful opportunities I have encountered. It also provides the chance to recall all of the people involved in my development who have provided support, partnerships, friendships, opportunities and encouragement. It is the giant bow on a package that summarizes my love of food service and lifetime of achievements. I am blessed, honored and humbled to receive the Silver Plate award for what I love dearly.
What is your favorite meal?
A bountiful charcuterie or cheese board with a nice glass of wine.
Watch IFMA's live conversation with Dani Sheffield, Executive Director, Child Nutrition Services at Aldine Independent School District. Hear Dani's story and learn what drives one of the nation’s top foodservice operators.