Laura Benavidez is from Weslaco, Texas, located in the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas. Laura is a graduate from Texas A&M University in College Station with a Bachelor’s of Science in Food Science and Technology. She pursued her Master’s of Business Administration Degree at the University of Phoenix, in Fresno and graduated in May 2006.
In December 2001, Laura began her foodservices career with ARAMARK Corporation in the School Support Services Division. As an Assistant Director of Child Nutrition, she worked with various school districts in Texas before being contracted to work for the Coalinga-Huron Unified School as the Child Nutrition Consultant in Coalinga, CA. During her tenure at the District, Laura implemented salad bars, breakfast in the classroom and Provision 2 feeding programs at the schools. She was in charge of the food service department at Coalinga-Huron and the daily operations of the program.
In May 2006, Laura was hired by the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) in the role of Senior Food Services Supervisor to assist with overseeing daily operations for three of the local districts. She was quickly promoted to the position of Deputy Director of Food Services overseeing the operations of all 700 school cafeterias and over 1,000 meal programs. As the Deputy in charge of Operations, Laura is responsible for daily operations, implementing and updating Standard Operating Procedures, Meal Application Processing and is in charge of the implementation project of the Cafeteria Management System, which is a system that will automate all of the cafeterias within the District. Laura was also responsible for the modernization of select secondary school cafeterias which has helped streamline service and allows for more student access to meals. The number of meals (breakfast, lunch and snack) served in 2008-09 have increased by 5.24%. Last year, the District served more than 120 million meals.
Laura is an advocate for child nutrition and promotes nutrition training and school meal participation to the students and parents in LAUSD, School Board and school Administration. Since her tenure, meal application eligibility increased by 6% and over 250 schools have been added to the list of Provision 2 schools which is a process that increases student access to healthy, nutritious meals at no cost to them.
Some of Laura’s professional extra-curricular activities include being a member of the School Nutrition Association, the Southern California School Nutrition Association and the Food Technologist Society and LAUSD’s Cafeteria Improvement Committee, Nutrition Policy Executive Committee and the Parent and Community Communication Committee. Laura has been asked to speak at several forums at the California Endowment Center representing Child Nutrition and the importance of meal programs. She also speaks at the annual LAUSD Parent Summit to remind parents on the importance of making informed choices about the foods provided to children. She has participated in several media events promoting the benefits of meal applications and participating in school meals. Laura is also the voice of the Food Services Division, providing updates to parents via the telephone messaging program.
Laura is currently pursuing her PhD at the Iowa State University, specializing in Child Nutrition.
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