LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Steven Marinelli

Position: Food Service Director
School: Milton Town School District
School District: Milton Town School District
City, State: Milton, VT

Support Steven

Steven Marinelli was nominated by a colleague, Keely Agan.

Since Mr. Marinelli joined the MTSD staff, so many positive changes have come about due to his hard work. For the sake of students and staff in the district, Mr. Marinelli has made drastic changes to school menus to increase the quality of food. He has personally made positive changes to the atmosphere of the kitchen, cafeteria, and school gardens. He has also demonstrated amazing leadership within the district, helped his school stand out at a national level for its excellency in farm to school leadership, and has continued to be moral and ethical in all of his practices along the way. 

School lunches have received such a bad rap over time, but Milton has school lunches to be proud of. This change is due to Mr. Marinelli and his farm to school philosophies. MTSD is now lucky enough to have healthy, local, vegetable-filled school lunches that are enjoyed by students and staff. Starting in middle school, students have many options such as salad bar, deli, hot lunch, and fruit and veggie bar for school lunch. Providing students and staff with amazing, healthy food day in and day out encourages learning and a healthy environment.

Mr. Marinelli has also been a role model to students of all ages by inspiring them to cook and explore the kitchen. Year-round, he runs cooking camps where students can learn basic kitchen skills and can even start on a culinary career path if that's where their interest lies. Having opportunities to explore extra-curriculars besides sports or the visual/performing arts creates yet another place for students to grow as individuals and to learn about a great vocation that they can pursue after high school. 

Mr. Marinelli's work extends outside of the kitchen and cafeteria. Because of his passion for the lives of students and staff members, he works tirelessly to make positive additions to the atmosphere at MTSD. By creating a farm to school program that extends throughout elementary, middle, and high school, Mr. Marinelli has ensured that all students are learning about food and nutrition. This has such a positive impact on school atmosphere because it helps promote staff and student health through the scope of wellness that Mr. Marinelli has worked to create. These lessons on wellness encourage students to be healthy and active, which not only positively affects their learning environment, but improves health and nutrition for students throughout their lives.

Mr. Marinelli is also a leader within his school, the school district, and the community. He works closely with administrators as a constant voice for students and staff, whom he interacts with almost every day in the cafeteria. By hosting free dinners for the community throughout the year, as well as catering events within the community, Mr. Marinelli is a leader for students and community members alike. He promotes health and happiness within the community while always advocating for the things that students and staff need to ensure the best learning environment possible.

Since Mr. Marinelli has started his work at MTSD, he has put his district on the map as a model for schools across the country. Being a leader in this respect has taken MTSD students to the White House to grow a garden and harvest vegetables with First Lady Michelle Obama. It has also allowed Mr. Marinelli and other school nutrition professionals at MTSD to speak at conferences across the country to demonstrate their success. Finally, it has helped get local politicians to visit MTSD and observe all of the great things going on. Because of Mr. Marinelli's work for the past several years, MTSD is not only a leader locally, but nation-wide.

Every day, Mr. Marinelli helps to create an atmosphere where students can feel comfortable, and where it's easy to learn. He sees almost every student within the elementary and middle school on a daily basis, so he is able to form connections with many individuals. Mr. Marinelli shows that he cares about the lives of students and staff by listening when they have complaints or come upon hard times. He provides snacks throughout the day for those who are hungry. He also creates opportunities for students who want to learn how to cook or students who want to learn what it is like to help out in a kitchen. By listening to the students and being a part of the school body community, he encourages a nurturing atmosphere where students and teachers feel comfortable coming to the lunch room every single day. 

"Overall, Steve has been a leader in the MTSD district and community for his entire career with us," said Agan. "From being a leader in the kitchen and cafeterias at the school, where he provides delicious and nutritious lunches day in and day out, to being a farm to school leader for the nation and puting our school on the map as a school who prioritizes health and wellness for students and staff, Steve has helped positively change the life of students, staff, and members of the community. We are lucky to have him."

Comments (34)

Catherine C. Posted 1 days ago

Steve's passion for making sure that each student receives the fresh, nutritious food that we all need to stay healthy and thrive is beyond inspiring. I wish we could line up every child he has ever helped to be well-nourished and see how far the queue would go. I'm sure it would stretch a long, long way!

Jennifer Posted 1 days ago

Steve has been a positive influence to our school’s nutrition program. My kids love his meals and have tried many new food because of him. His community dinners are such a great way of bringing the community together and the food is always great! He Is such a life changer to our community with all of the outreach he has done. Milton is a better place because of him.

Sam Posted 1 days ago

We are very lucky to have Steve at our school! My children both talk about Steve and how much of a positive spirit he has. He always has a smile on his face and works hard to make sure all of our children have new and healthy foods! A daughter who is very selective of her food choices since a young age, has so many different options that make school breakfast and lunch an option for us!

Jennifer Knowles Posted 1 days ago

Steve has been not only a LifeChanger for many of the students in our school, he has also been a CommunityChanger for an entire town. The food service program in Milton is known regionally and nationally for the healthy, delicious and approachable food. He has created events and activities that have drawn the town together. By infusing a sense of joy and fun into the meals he lovingly prepares Steve is able to coax the most reluctant of eaters into trying new things. Steve approaches each situation with a 'How can I help?" attitude. The culture and climate of our school is following the model of the food program and for that we are grateful with full hearts and bellies!

Megan Emch Posted 1 days ago

Steve helped with the Grow it, taste it, try it program a few years ago. The program had toddlers and parents cook new foods together. My son Jackson looked forward to it and loved cooking and learning about new foods . 4 years later Jackson still looks forward to seeing Steve at school and looks forward to his menu. He also loves to cook and talks about becoming a chef someday :)

Lisa Posted 1 days ago

As a parent of a special needs child I was happy to see how excited my son was to work in the cafeteria at the Middle school. I like that Steve is letting the kids participate and learn how to fill the milk coolers and other things that need to be done in the kitchen, and teaching them along the way. Steve has changed the town with the community dinners. That is an experience that my son will never forget, as he is still mentioning Steve at times. You deserve this Steve!

Kym Duchesneau Posted 1 days ago

Steve Marinelli is an amazing asset to the Milton community and I am so proud to support his nomination for Lifechanger of the Year! Since Steve has been with the Milton Town School District, he has been a huge supporter of Milton Recreation and we have worked on countless projects together. From Community Dinners & Breakfasts to Winter Festival hot cocoa, Cooking Camps & classes to Summer Meals and more, Steve is always there going above and beyond and then some and always with a smile. He is truly one-of-a-kind and an inspiration to all. Thank you, Steve, for all you do - we are lucky to have you as part of our community! ~Kym Duchesneau, Community Member and Town of Milton Recreation Coordinator

Lisa Posted 1 days ago

As a parent of a special needs child I was happy to see how excited my son was to work in the cafeteria at the Middle school. I like that Steve is letting the kids participate and learn how to fill the milk coolers and other things that need to be done in the kitchen, and teaching them along the way. Steve has changed the town with the community dinners. That is an experience that my son will never forget, as he is still mentioning Steve at times. You deserve this Steve!

Amie Saunders Posted 1 days ago

Steve is a valuable asset to our Milton Community! Not only does he ensure our kids have healthy food choices at both breakfast and lunch while in school but he also brings our community together. He and his staff provide a free summer food program for all kids, a monthly community dinner for all and are often in attendance at local events (painting murals in the park or breakfast with Santa, to name a few). Steve makes learning about gardening, farm to table and composting fun and has introduced so many new foods to the 'not so adventurous' eater. Thank you Steve for all you do for our community.

Michelle Posted 1 days ago

I wish the school menu was this delicious when I was in school 20+ years ago. Steve really makes an effort to offer a variety of dishes on the school menu for kids to choose from. All nutritionally balanced. His efforts are year round, offering meals through the summer to ensure no child goes hungry. I am thankful to have him as part of our school community.

Rick Scharf Posted 1 days ago

Steve is making a REAL difference here at Milton Town School District. He is facilitating collaboration between the cafeteria, classroom, and community and has been a part of starting the Farm-to-School program here and to continue to widen its reach to all aspects of our students' experience. Steve's work to insure that every student has access to abundant and nutritious food has had a huge impact. Further, he supports students not only as eaters, but as growers and producers. We have a robust school gardening program that involves every high school student in a 4 year program of learning about foods and what it takes to produce nutritious foods while building and maintaining healthy soils. Steve has supported me, as a high school biology teacher, to build and expand this program and to continue to facilitate connections between these two ecological acts- eating and growing. We appreciate your tireless effort, Steve!

Ethan Rogati Posted 1 days ago

Steve has been an awesome contributor to the Milton community, both inside and outside the walls of the schools, since his arrival. In emphasizing local items and good nutrition, he is a positive influence on all of the kids of the school district.

Gloria Crowe Posted 1 days ago

I am very grateful to Steve; I suffer from multiple food allergies and he always makes sure that there are healthy allergen free options available.

Gloria Crowe Posted 1 days ago

I am very grateful to Steve; I suffer from multiple food allergies and he always makes sure that there are healthy allergen free options available.

Jackie Posted 1 days ago

We are so lucky to have Steve as a part of our school community! He always goes out of his way to support all of students, their families and our community as a whole. He strives to make healthy and nutritious food delicious and accessible for our students and is always there to share a warm smile. Thank you for all you do for us, Steve!

Kate Posted 1 days ago

Congratulations! I wish the school lunch menu looked this delicious when I was in school!

Peggy Heath Posted 1 days ago

Steve is such a wonderful asset to our community. My daughters love Mr. Marinelli and have tried foods for him they would never have from me! You see him everywhere in our community, making sure children have food in the summer and making delicious community dinners with his team that bring a cross-section of our town together. I particularly like that many of his efforts help low income and underserved families come together with more fortunate families and allow them to develop friendships and support systems that help lift them up. Thanks for all you have done for our community Steve!

Olivia P Posted 1 days ago

Steve's dedication to addressing hunger is inspiring. He works consistently to make sure that students have access to the foods they need to make them successful students and members of their community. His commitment to food security extends outside of his school district, as he has been a valuable member of local and statewide initiatives to reducing hunger in Vermont. Thank you for all you do for our communities Steve!

Lynne Manley Posted 1 days ago

Steve has had a "Life Changing" impact on the lives of so many Milton families. He is the heart and soul behind our fresh, nutritious school lunches, delivers meals to daycares, hosts community dinners that bring us all together, and has written grants to provide summer meals, fresh fruit and other options. He is dedicated and energetic, and he's making a positive difference in our community.

Julie Danaher Posted 2 days ago

Steve makes a world of difference in the Milton community. My daughter Jackie benefitted from Steve’s food program at Milton elementary and at her daycare as well. We grew to know Steve and Jackie knew how big his heart is, and would run right up to him for hugs. Whether a farmers market, cafeteria, or summer fun days, Steve was there with a smile and good food for all! Thank you Steve for all you do!!!

Ginger Farineau Posted 3 days ago

Steve is my partner. Every week day he gets up at 4:30am and goes into work to meet the delivery truck, make coffee for the custodians and start getting things set up for his staff. It's Saturday morning, -2 degrees out and Steve got up at 5:30 and headed to the "Breakfast with Santa" at Georgia Mountain Maple Center, sponsored by the Cub Scouts. The group needed help cooking all of the food, so Steve volunteered to cook some of the food at the school and deliver it to the event. Last week when he was in Pennsylvania, at hunting camp, he called me and told me that if I was going to get a Christmas tree while he was gone, to be sure and get it from the Milton Youth Hockey stand, so of course, we did! Almost every time we are in the grocery store, some child comes running over and says, "Hi Steve!", sporting a big smile! He caters to two child care centers in Milton, and that is where the children of this community begin their relationship with him. By the time they get to kindergarten, he is a familiar face at the new, big school. He's one of the most thoughtful people I've ever known!

Ben Nappi Posted 5 days ago

Steven told me the other day that he was going to retire in Milton, and it made my day. He is an outstanding asset for our schools and community as a whole. Tireless dedication to making others happy and healthy.

Joanna Scott Posted 5 days ago

Thank you Steve! You are a shining and caring light that our district desperately needed some many years ago! You’ve changed the culture of food for our students, staff and community! Thank you for all your hard work, leadership and compassion. I’m so grateful I had the privilege of working with you!

Jacki Fagan Posted 11 days ago

I've witnessed the kindness and compassion Steve has for the children of Milton. He never allows a hungry belly to go unfed. Also, he mentors our students through small jobs and other aspects through his food program. He is many things to the students at Milton and I hope he's recognized for all the good he brings to our children and district. It takes a village to raise a child, and he is a leader within our village!

Jocelind Knapp Posted 1 months ago

We are so fortunate to have Steve in Milton! I wholeheartedly agree with all that has been said about the amazing food program that he has created and maintains for our students. My children have learned about what they are eating, the importance of healthy choices, composting, and most importantly they love what they are served! Thanks, Mr. Marinelli and crew for leading the way in school lunch programming.

Tabatha Posted 1 months ago

Steven Marinelli has not only dedicated himself to this district, but to all schools across the nation. Providing leadership in healthy nutritious and delicious food options for youth, Milton under his direction has been considered a leader for school lunches!

Alice Buinicky Posted 1 months ago

Not only do the kids enjoy Steves meals his summer program is great ..his community meals are a pleasure for families and the seniors have a great time enjoying the meal with so much action and help from all...he is a great addition to our town and school...

Jen Saunders Posted 1 months ago

As a parent of a student with special needs, I appreciate the open and inclusive atmosphere of the MTSD kitchen. Steve Marinelli allows students to make their own way in the kitchen, trying new foods and exploring ways to participate in the preparation of their own meals. It's a positive experience and one that all our kids needs to feel confident and successful. As a staff member at MTSD and the district's Homeless Liaison, I am honored to work with Mr. Marinelli. He is compassionate and generous with all of our students and families needing a nutritious meal to keep them safe and fueled for learning. No student in MTSD goes hungry as soon as Mr. Marinelli knows that they need a little extra food to get them through a tough moment, a long weekend, or just for the night. I know of countless students and families that have benefited from Steve's kindness, generosity and a healthy meal. The thing is, for every one that I know about, I know there are several more that receive the same treatment...quietly, without any acknowledgement. Steve doesn't need accolades, although they are plentiful. He just is passionate about serving our community!

Robert DeCicco Posted 1 months ago

Steve and his hard-working crew are transforming school lunches from a thing of noteriety to a beacon of light for communities all around the world! Steve has capitalized on the local movement and the community spirit that encapsulates the movement. Through Steve's leadership, our school's food service program takes student nutrition seriously in pioneering ways. Steve's kitchen provides food, not only to the students within our community, but also to the larger community. They do this throughout the year even when school is not in session. We have frequent community dinners that brings us closer together and he has partnered with stakeholders from various corners within our school and community to provide opportunities that were not available in the past. Congratulations and well-deserved!

Betsy Rosenbluth Posted 2 months ago

Not only has Steve created a fantastic school nutrition program at Milton, but it serves as a model across the state. Steve is always happy to help coach other school nutrition staff and has successfully advocated for more state funding for Farm to School and Early Childhood so other schools could get the support they need.

Kimberley Hoffman Posted 2 months ago

Steve has implemented a school food service program that has brought fresh local fruits and vegetables onto the kids lunch trays, exposed students to new cuisine, and has provided students with numerous food options that helps to provide variety in their diets. Steve is always open to new ideas and suggestions and he easily collaborates with community resources. I wish every school in Vermont had a Steve Marinelli.

Tami Koester Posted 2 months ago

Over the past several years Steve has welcomed some of our students needing flexible pathways to learn math, habits of mind, and social thinking skills to stock milk, for purchase drinks, and for purchase ice cream deserts. Students participating in this alternative learning atmosphere feel welcomed, valued, and are proud of their contributions to the cafeteria. As the liaison between the cafeteria and students, I'm approached throughout the school year, but especially at the start of the school year with student requests to 'work in the cafeteria.' Steve also supports our farm to school coordinator in teaching our kids how to make healthy no-bake snacks. Students with special needs and my own advisory kids look forward to these weekly and monthly opportunities. I started eating in the cafeteria thanks to Steve's farm to school philosophy. This is noteworthy because I'm known to be a very healthy eater. So when colleagues began seeing me carrying a full cafeteria tray down the hall to eat at my desk, there were A LOT of surprised looks and comments! I appreciate the monthly community dinners Steve has brought to our school. I love seeing young and old together in our school cafeteria eating at the same table. I know, and our kids know Steve cares about us and wants the best for us.

Keely Posted 2 months ago

Steve became food service director when I was a student at MTSD. I saw the amazing changes he was making firsthand, and he inspired me to go to college for Dietetics and Nutrition and Food Science. Now I am proud to work with Steve on maintaining a high standard for school lunches as well as bringing Farm to School to MTSD to enrich learning for students of all ages!

Christina Posted 2 months ago

He is daughter, always looks for him. He always grabs her cereal, cause she won't eat the other breakfast...My six year old, says...he the good one !!!