Nutrition director earns state honor

Karen Bissett

She tells her staff that she’ll never ask them to do something in the kitchen she hasn’t done herself.

Because of the work she and her team have done in food service for Oxford Schools, Karen Bissett was named the Student Nutrition Association of Michigan’s (SNAM) Director of the Year.

Bissett has been Oxford’s nutrition director for 14 years.

SNAM Executive Director Scott Little issued a statement boasting Bissett’s, a former SNAM president, dedication to her job and the students she serves.

“Karen has demonstrated her leadership in many ways over the years, both at the state and national level, always with the focus on improving children’s access to nutritional food,” he wrote. “Not only was she instrumental in helping SNAM be successful as president, she is always focused on her program at Oxford – always putting the children’s nutritional needs first.”

Aside from having served as SNAM’s president in the past, Bissett has also served in an advisory position with the Hospital Purchasing Services and is a member of the Oakland County School Nutrition Officials among a few other things.Despite her extensive resume, she said it was a shock to even be nominated.

“I was taken aback,” she said. “I mean, it’s a big honor. I was very happy, but I was also taken aback because there are many great directors in our state. Being able to get this award – I could not have this award without a great staff because they are the ones making everything work. You know, I can come up with the ideas all day long, but they implement them and we’re a team.”

Bissett was slow to speak about her own accomplishments that led to a nomination and eventually her selection, instead opting to speak of the work done by her team. Bissett remembered a time when her team came together to provide breakfast to more students at Oxford Middle School.

“We were doing maybe 20 breakfasts a day out of that entire school because breakfast was at the farthest point away from the bus drop off, so kids didn’t take time to come down to the commons then try to get back to their class,” she said. “(But) it’s the right thing to do to feed kids breakfast, so we came up with a system… and we bring breakfast down on carts to three different locations in the middle school … and we hit like 300 breakfasts a day now.”

Bissett said she enjoys her job because she gets to work with students, saying her time spent in Oxford has been marked by the children and teens she encounters regularly.

“I love being able to provide the kids with a great meal,” she said. “It’s all about the students. That’s the number one thing.”

Oxford Schools’ Communications Specialist, Danielle Stubensky, said she admires Bissett’s heart for students and feels the recognition is well deserved.

“We are very blessed to have her talent and her heart for our students and our district,” she said.

Matt Johnson, the district’s Director of Marketing of and Communications, added he respects the sharp mind it requires to be able to do a job like Bissett’s well.

“I think a significant portion of our population doesn’t understand the business side of education, and Karen does business management so well with what she oversees,” he said. “It provides funding and resources to the district in ways people would never see or dream possible – the things she’s able to give back from her program…”

After Bissett receives her award later this week, she’ll be right back in her office at Oxford High School working out menus and new ideas.

“At the end of the day, it’s always about what’s best for the kids. That’s what I want.”

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