2023 Annual Conference Speakers

MaribelAlchinMaribel AlchinAsst. Director of Food & Nutrition Services
Marquardt SD 15

Maribel Alchin is the Assistant Director of Food and Nutrition Services at Marquardt School District 15, a K-8 school district in Glendale Heights, IL. Maribel is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, School Nutrition Services Dietetic Practice Group. She earned a degree in Dietetics, Nutrition, & Food Systems from Northern Illinois University. Maribel completed her dietetic internship at Mount Mary University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She holds a Master’s in Business Administration degree with a concentration in Entrepreneurship from Benedictine University, is a Registered Dietitian, speaks fluent Spanish, and has a personal chef and catering certificate from Kendall College. Prior to working Marquardt School District 15, Maribel worked for the American Egg Board and Meijer.  

Lindsay BloughLindsay Blough, M.S.Principal Consultant
Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE)

Lindsay has been working with the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) in the Nutrition Department for 17 years. Lindsay attended Illinois State University where she earned her master’s degree in Family and Consumer Sciences with an emphasis in Nutrition and Dietetics. She completed her dietetic internship at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana. During her time at ISBE, she has worked with the administration of the School Nutrition Programs, including the National School Lunch and the School Breakfast Programs, the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program grant, and the Community Eligibility Provision. Most recently she has been focusing on procurement and is working with the administration of the Local Foods in Schools (LFS) Cooperative Agreement and the USDA Farm to School State Formula Grant.


Diane ChapetaDiane ChapetaManager of the Illinois Farm to School Network
Seven Generations Ahead

Diane’s career in food service spanned thirty-two years. She committed the last fifteen to school nutrition, working in Wisconsin school districts. Diane developed successful and prosperous farm to school programs, building relationships with Wisconsin farmers and processors. During that time, she formed the Northeast Wisconsin (NEW) Farm to School Initiative, which assisted over sixty school districts working to create sustainable farm to school programs.

Later, Diane acted as the first Operations Manager for the newly created Fifth Season Cooperative, in Viroqua, WI. She built the six-member class co-op from the ground up, aggregating product from twenty-eight individual farms, three farm co-ops (totaling two-hundred farms) and thirteen processor members. Utilizing returning trucks and existing distribution routes with distribution member Reinhart Foodservice, and later Sysco Foods, the co-op successfully moves Wisconsin foods to Wisconsin institutions and restaurants.

Diane now manages programming for the Illinois Farm to School Network. She educates and trains school food service staff expanding farm to school participation in Illinois, her home state. She firmly believes that kids of all ages can learn to truly enjoy fresh vegetables with education and a side of fun. 

Paula CrawfordPaula CrawfordAssistant Food Service Director
Lincoln Elem. SD 27

Paula Crawford is the Assistant Food Service Director for Lincoln Elementary School District 27 in Lincoln, Il. She has a background of working in a K-8 school kitchen. She wears many hats; many times finding herself working alongside the staff, in the kitchens. Paula assists in managing the 20 staff members within the district, assists head cooks with the daily operation of their kitchen, training, and assists Connie, in any other duties that arise, in regards to managing the kitchens. She is proud of the Lincoln 27 & Beyond program, and she enjoys working to bring the students of Lincoln Elementary District 27, and surrounding schools nutritious, delicious, farm to school meals.  


Connie CrawleyConnie CrawleyFood Service Director
Lincoln Elem. SD 27

Connie Crawley is the Food Service Director for Lincoln Elementary School District 27 in Lincoln, Il. She holds a bachelor’s in Elementary Education from Illinois State University. Connie and her staff prepare and serve made from scratch meals for the 5 schools that make up the district along with three out of district K-8 buildings, totaling 1500 students. She holds the responsibility of many FSD: creating the menu, ordering, managing staff to name a few.  With the initiative Lincoln 27 & Beyond, the school district has transitioned their breakfast/lunch program by preparing meals made from scratch.  Connie and the entire district are proud of what is being provided for the students. She does not limit her menu to USDA standardized recipes.  Based on what the students want, she creates new recipes that follow the USDA & ISBE nutritional guidelines.  Connie has gone the extra step in creating working relationships with local farmers to purchase ingredients for menu items. 


Laura DeesLaura DeesAssistant Director
Champaign CUSD 4

Laura Dees is the Food Service Director for Champaign Unit 4 School District. She has been with the district since 2013. She received a bachelor’s degree in Consumer Textile Marketing from the University of Illinois. She received a master’s degree from Eastern Michigan University in Human Nutrition and became a Registered Dietitian in 2013. Laura is a member of the School of Nutrition Association, Northern Illinois Independent Purchasing Cooperative, and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She lives in Savoy, Illinois, with her two daughters, River and Royal. She enjoys exercising, reading, cooking delicious foods, and spending quality time with friends and family. 


Leah ErkeLeah ErkeVisiting Outreach Associate
University of Illinois Extension

Leah Erke, from Quincy, Illinois, is an educator with the ABCs of School Nutrition program. Her role is to provide professional development training for school nutrition staff in K-12 schools.

Leah holds a bachelor’s degree in Restaurant Management from University of Illinois, and an associate’s degree in Dietetics from St. Louis Community College.

She joined Illinois Extension in 2016, after serving nine years at John Wood Community College as the Department Chair and Instructor of the Restaurant and Hospitality Management Program. She taught courses on professional cooking, food safety, financial management, and menu planning in addition to overseeing the college’s cafeteria (staffed by her students).

Prior to her position at John Wood Leah was the food service director at Hannibal Regional Hospital in Hannibal, Missouri. There she managed 42 employees and was responsible for all meals served to patients, employees, and visitors.

Gretchen ErnstGretchen ErnstEducation Sales Manager
Gordon Food Service

Gretchen Ernst has over 10 years of food industry experience, having spent the last two years working in school nutrition as the Education Sales Manager for Gordon Food Service. She loves working with the schools and is truly inspired by all of the school nutrition professionals that she works with. 

When she is not at work, Gretchen likes to spend her time outdoors with her husband and two dogs. They go hiking and kayaking as much as possible while the weather is warm, and have recently been getting into snowshoeing during the winter. 


Margo GusmanMargo GusmanFood Service Manager
Marquardt SD 15

Margo Gusman is the central kitchen manager for Marquardt School District 15 in Glendale Heights, IL and she has worked for the district since 2001. She oversees a Pre-k through 8 satellite operation that produces over 4,000 meals a day including breakfast, lunch, and supper. Margo is a past and current member of the ILSNA board, and she has her level 4 SNA certification. She has spoken at ILSNA conferences in the past and enjoys idea-sharing and learning from other school nutrition professionals.   

Mattie HorwitchMattie HorwitchK-12 and Healthcare Segment Specialist
Donovan Food Brokerage

Mattie Horwitch is a dietitian and the K12 and Healthcare Sales Specialist at Donovan Food Brokerage.  Mattie received her undergraduate degree in nutrition and completed her dietetic internship at Ingalls Memorial Hospital.  She has been in her current role at Donovan Food Brokerage for nine years.  She has been an active member of the ILSNA Industry Board and a previous Industry Member Chair.

Stacy LenihanAbbey JohnsonPrincipal Consultant
Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE)

Abbey has been working for the Illinois State Board of Education for a little over a year and a half.  Although she is somewhat new to the agency, she brings a contagious eagerness for the field with her!  Abbey received her bachelor’s degree in Family and Consumer Sciences with an option in Dietetics from Western Illinois University.  She went on to complete her master’s degree at Eastern Illinois University in Family and Consumer Sciences.  Abbey’s diverse work history in supply chain/logistics and data analytics has provided her with experience that she combines with her education to provide a well-rounded perspective to contribute to ISBE and the success of the School Nutrition Programs in Illinois. 

Stacy LenihanStacy LenihanDirector of Food & Nutrition Services
Glenview CCSD 34

Stacy Lenihan is the current Director of Food & Nutrition Services at District 34 in Glenview. She is passionate about all things school nutrition, including nutrition education, recipe development, program operations, and cooking. She has been using her expertise as a registered dietitian, food safety trainer, and amateur food critic to administer school nutrition programs in Illinois for the last 12 years. 

Kim NeslerKim NeslerPrincipal Consultant
Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE)

Kim Nesler has worked with the School Nutrition Programs for 25 years.  Her experience ranges from starting out at the State Agency level, then to a food service director in Arizona and Missouri, then at the corporate level as a regional dietitian for a Food Service Management Company - and now has come back full circle to the State Agency level again.  She has been with the Illinois State Board of Education for 11 years.  She finds working with all of the Child Nutrition Programs rewarding but her greatest joy is working with the school districts in Illinois!

Norman PereaNorman PereaKey Account Manager K-12
Rich's Products

Current RoleKey Account Manager K-12 IL/Wi
Rich Products – Buffalo, New York

EducationBachelor of Science 1994
Northern Illinois University

Experience25 Years Sales & Marketing
•    Beverages
•    Foodservice
•    Distribution
•    Operations
•    Brokerage


JoAnna RewertsJoAnna RewertsSN Director
McLean CUSD 5

JoAnna Rewerts knew by the time she was in 8th grade that she wanted to pursue a career in the field of dietetics.  She received both her bachelor's degree (2006) and her master's degree (2008) from Illinois State University in Family and Consumer Sciences — Food, Nutrition and Dietetics sequence.  She has been a registered dietitian since 2009 and became the Director of Food Service for McLean CUSD #5 in 2019.  Prior to working in a school setting, JoAnna held positions in long term care, public health and corporate wellness. JoAnna is a member of the School Nutrition Association and has recently joined the ILSNA Professional Development Committee. 

JoAnna lives in Central Illinois with her husband, Marc, 10 year old daughter, Berlyn, and their 3 year old Frenchie named Kittle.  During her personal time, she enjoys exercising, reading, traveling and watching her daughter play basketball, volleyball and softball.  In the summer you will find JoAnna on the lake boating with family and friends.  

Tanya SieberTanya SieberK-12 Market Manager
Burlis Lawson Group

Tanya Sieber grew up in the Southern US and earned a BA at Trinity University in San Antonio, TX. She is also a graduate of the Texas Culinary Academy in Austin and has worked in many segments of the food service industry over the last 25 years, from flagship hotels to college dining programs. She has worked for Burlis Lawson as the K12 Market Specialist since 2017 and is an active industry member of her state and regional school nutrition associations. Tanya has genuine passion for this industry and relishes her current role supporting school nutrition programs in feeding the future. 

Tanya SieberJessica SmithPrincipal Consultant
Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE)

Meet Jessica Smith, a dedicated professional working for the Illinois State Board of Education in the Child Nutrition Programs department. With a passion for improving the health and well-being of children, Jessica plays a vital role in ensuring that nutrition programs are effectively implemented and administered throughout the state.

Jessica holds a degree in Nutrition from Southern Illinois University Carbondale, where she developed a strong foundation in understanding the role of nutrition in human health. To further enhance her expertise, she pursued a Master of Public Health degree from Virginia Tech, equipping her with valuable insights into public health policies, community outreach, and education.

Based in her vibrant hometown of Chicago, Jessica is deeply committed to community health promotion, outreach, and education. She believes in the power of empowering individuals and communities with knowledge and resources to make informed decisions about their health. Through her work, she actively engages with schools, parents, and community organizations to develop and implement initiatives that promote healthy eating habits among children.


Sandra VossSandy VossFood Services Director
Arlington Heights SD 25

Sandy Voss is the Director of Food & Nutrition Services for Arlington Heights School District 25 which is located about 15 miles outside of Chicago. The district serves approximately 5600 students in Kindergarten through 8th grades. Sandy has 16 years of experience as a Food & Nutrition Service Director and is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. Sandy also holds her School Nutrition Specialist credential and mostly recently completed schooling for her certification as a School Business Official. She is currently serving as Secretary/Treasurer for the Illinois School Nutrition Association and has also had the pleasure of serving in multiple volunteer positions with the School Nutrition Association as well as being a trainer for the Institute of Child Nutrition in the past. 


Kymberly WrobleKymberly WrobleNon-commercial Business Solutions Specialist
Gordon Food Service

Kym has several years of industry food service experience as a Registered Dietitian. She currently works on the marketing team as a Non-Commercial Business Solutions Specialist at Gordon Food Service. In this role, she works with K-12 schools, colleges and universities, and healthcare organizations to help achieve business goals while meeting regulatory requirements and nutrition standards.

She serves on the Industry Advisory Board for ILSNA and prior to joining Gordon Food Service, she worked as a regional dietitian for Chartwells K12 Dining Services. She also spent part of her career working in sports nutrition as the Performance Dietitian for the Saint Louis University Athletic Department, as well as working in retail dietetics as a supermarket dietitian for the Midwestern supermarket chain, Hy-Vee.

Kym stays active in local and national nutrition and dietetics groups and organizations and is a member of the Chicago Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Additionally, she is a member of several practice groups, including the Food and Culinary Professionals, Dietetics in Health Care Communities, and the Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutrition dietetic practice groups.

She received her Master of Science degree in Clinical Nutrition and Nutrition and Physical Performance from St. Louis University in 2017 and her Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition and Dietetics with a Food Science minor from Dominican University in 2003. She completed the supervised practice component of her dietetic internship with Iowa State University and Great River Medical Center in Burlington, Iowa.

Her research has been published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness and she has earned the CDR Certificate of Training in Adult Weight Management.


Kimberly ZiarkoKimberly ZiarkoSolution Engineer

Kim brings over nine years of experience in the K-12 industry. Before joining Cybersoft as a Solution Engineer, she worked as an Assistant Director/Menu Planner for a school district in Texas, gaining valuable insights into the inner workings of K-12 operations.


Tanisha Carter

2023 Opening Keynote SpeakerTanisha CarterDirector of Child Nutrition
Maureen Joy Charter School


Tanisha Carter better known as Chef T, is the proud mother of two beautiful girls and the Director of Child Nutrition at Maureen Joy Charter School in Durham, North Carolina. Chef T. has been cooking for over 17 years and was classically trained at Johnson & Wales University. She owns a successful business, The Foosic Experience where her cuisine is what some may call soul food with elegance. She wants her clients' culinary experience to tickle all 5 senses! The music sets the tone. The ambiance entices the visual. Food plays a delectable symphony on your taste buds--all while the aroma permeates from the kitchen reminding you of your grandma’s kitchen. All of these elements mixed together are the perfect ingredients for a Foosic Experience!

Just recently, she created a curriculum to teach the students at Maureen Joy sustainable living. In this class she teaches a group of 8th grade students how to grow, harvest, and cook their own food. Chef T knows how important these skills are for our youth in today's world. In addition to teaching the youth, Chef T also teaches a group of women who are transitioning back into society a course about healthy living on a budget. Their class is called A Recipe For Change.

Marlon Gordon

2023 Closing Keynote SpeakerMarlon GordonFounder & CEO
NxtGen Innovators/NxtGen Network


Marlon is the founder &CEO of NxtGen Network, a marketing, advertising, and production agency that’s passionate about relationships, telling stories, and empowering others through innovation. He partners with those in Child Nutrition, Hospitality, Food & Beverage and also has an international philanthropical project called NxtGen Cares. Marlon is the co-creator and host of First Taste TV™, a show dedicated to giving industry members opportunities to reach operators where they live through video. Creator and host of Next Up, a talk show focusing on thought leadership and live viewer engagement. Host of the Next Up Podcast. Co-creator of digital publications such as Served Digizine™ and Indulge. And the creator and emcee of Ignite, an in-person celebration for professionals working in foodservice. Marlon has spent multiple years working on the operation side of child nutrition for a large district, spent multiple years working on the industry side, and is a visionary, a team builder, and is fueled by a faith that helps him do things others think are impossible.