Adam Russo, director of food services, works with cafeteria worker, both in blue uniformsSchool Food and Nutrition Services Director Adam Russo has earned the 2021 Foodservice Achievement Management Excellence (FAME) Silver Leadership Award. Each year, four food service leaders from across the country are selected to receive FAME awards from Basic American Foods, in the categories of Golden School Foodservice Director of the Year, Silver Leadership Award, Silver Spirit Award, and Silver Rising Star Award. Winners are chosen by a committee and will be honored during the School Nutrition Association's School Nutrition Industry Conference to be held virtually in January.

The Silver Leadership Award recognizes Russo for his outstanding leadership, dedication, fiscal achievement, and innovation in "menuing" and merchandising in a school nutrition program. Under his direction, PWCS School Food and Nutrition Services has increased breakfasts by 6,000 students a day and 165,000 suppers a year; maintained an entire workforce during the pandemic (while other food service staff are being laid off), reconceptualized the Summer Food Service Program menu pattern to provide bulk grocery items to families for multiple days at a time, and increased the benefit for families receiving meals, from 3,000 to 30,000 overnight. More than seven million meals have been served this school year alone.

Russo holds a bachelor's degree in business administration from Longwood University. He transitioned from owning and operating restaurants to school nutrition seven years ago, with a goal of bringing the same exceptional guest experience, quality, and scratch cookery to school kitchens that were successful in private enterprise. He has been with PWCS since 2017. Each year, Adam spends time in all PWCS schools and centers, tweaking processes to further increase efficiency and excellence, while highlighting the efforts of his office's 1,000 employees. Over the past three years, the program's streamlined operations have caught the eye of experts around the country, who have featured Russo in several publications. most recently Foodservice Director Magazine's "Operation of the Year."

"I have always known the impact that our programs have had on educational outcomes, and students' ability to be successful in life," said Russo. "This has only been highlighted by the pandemic and the tremendous need in our community. I am constantly amazed by the passion and care our staff exhibits for those they serve. It is unmatched in any industry. While this might be the leadership award, it is truly for the team, as they push me every day."

The division's School Food and Nutrition Services staff commend Russo's leadership and mentoring skills, saying he empowers them to achieve and grow. They appreciate how, from his arrival, he quickly identified areas for improvement and opportunities to grow the operation and enhance communication. He listens to concerns and ensures staff training that builds confidence and autonomy.

Under his leadership, PWCS has won two Virginia School Boards Association Food for Thought Awards, been a Virginia Breakfast Challenge Division Gold Category Winner, and, in 2020, was the first school division to ever win Foodservice Director Magazine's "Operation of the Year."