A Fond Farewell to Janey Thornton

January 15, 2015

Janey Thornton resigned last week from her post as deputy under secretary for USDA’s food, nutrition and consumer services. We wish Janey all the best in her next pursuit, but we’re going to miss her quiet yet unwavering commitment and leadership in the important fight to improve student health and nutrition in our nation’s schools.

By Rochelle Davis, HSC President + CEO

As many of you know, last week Janey Thornton resigned from her post as deputy under secretary for USDA’s food, nutrition and consumer services. While we wish Janey all the best in her next pursuit, we’re going to miss her quiet yet unwavering commitment and leadership in the incredibly important fight to improve student health and nutrition in our nation’s schools.

After decades of school lunchroom service in Kentucky, and as a former president of the School Nutrition Association (SNA), Thornton had the right combination of on-the-ground experience and leadership to significantly impact student health at the national level. And impact she did. Janey was a leading force in getting the USDA to adopt new national nutrition standards, setting the stage for healthier meals in schools across the country.

This, of course, was no small feat. In the time since the national nutrition standards were implemented, there has been the expected pushback to the new standards from some policymakers and school districts, as well as unexpected pushback from the very organization she used to lead, the School Nutrition Association. But knowing that the health and well-being of students should always come first, and that schools should lead by example, Janey remained steadfast. That’s just who she is. Rather than buckle under the pressure, she helped provide resources and solutions with her eyes always on the prize of improving student health.

Janey was a consistent presence on the national stage, yet it was her personal touch that truly impacted our work. Over the years, Janey served as a judge at our Cooking up Change national competition in Washington, D.C., she joined us in celebrating student leadership and innovation in improving school meals in Chicago, and she served as a knowledgeable and approachable leader who supported and inspired us in our work to advocate for change to nutrition policy and to expand access to nutritious and affordable school food.

Janey is the type of national leader that we all want and deserve. It’s been a pleasure working with her, and we’re sorry to lose such an ally in Washington, but we’ll continue to do our part to carry out her legacy as a champion of student health.