New Milford's Sullivan recognized by state association

A New Milford school official was recently treated to a drive-up celebration for being named School Nutrition Association of Connecticut’s Director of the Year for 2019-20.

Sandra Sullivan, New Milford Public Schools’ food services director, was honored June 4 by her colleagues at Sarah Noble Intermediate School.

“We wanted to honor her,” said Annetta Volinski, manager of the cafeteria at Schaghticoke Middle School. “And since we missed the end of year banquet (due to the pandemic), we’re going to bring the banquet to her.”

Sullivan was invited to come outside at a particular time for the celebration. Friends and colleagues waved and cheered for Sullivan from their vehicles.

“This award is not just for me, but for everyone,” Sullivan said, acknowledging the staff that works alongside her.

Charlene Kirkwood, secretary of food and nutrition services for the school district, was with Sullivan when she learned she received the award.

“She was blown away,” Kirkwood said, noting Sullivan never expected the award.

Volinski said Sullivan has been “good for the New Milford school system.”

“She cares about the kids and the menus she comes up with,” Volinski said. “She’s just a wonderful person.”

SNACT, an affiliate of the National School Nutrition Association, is dedicated to ensuring the health and well-ness of Connecticut's school children through their participation in the school nutrition program.

Sullivan was nominated and evaluated by peers in school nutrition for exemplifying the best of child nutrition programs through their professionalism and program innovations.

“Feeding and meeting the nutrition needs of children has been the focus of my career as a Registered Dietitian for 37 years,” Sullivan, who has been the district’s food services director for 12 years, said in the school district’s latest newsletter.

Prior to coming to New Milford 12 years ago, Sullivan worked in school nutrition, the CT Birth to Three system and the Woman’s Infants and Children’s Program.

“I truly believe that healthy eating habits form healthy bodies which start during the childhood years and follow you to adulthood,” Sullivan said in the newsletter.

Linda Hurley, head cook and manager at New Milford High School, described Sullivan as “an excellent boss” who is on top of everything, including providing ongoing staff training, implementing proper sanitation practices, looking for new ideas and coming up with creative meal planning.

“I’ve had many managers with all different styles while working in the food industry over the years, in business and college settings,” Hurley said. “And she has been the fairest.”

“The fact our customers are children, they’re just as important as if they were adults,” Kirkwood said. “And Sandra has increased participation with the students in all the schools.”

Hurley said at the high school level, Sullivan “constantly involves the students,” offering samples of a variety of items to see how they are received by the students.

“She pays a lot of attention to details,” Kirkwood added.

The secretary also praised Sullivan for her dedication, even during the pandemic when she is present to ensure children have meals during the week.