Celebrating Women’s History Month

March 26, 2024


Foodservice is a fast-paced industry, and for a foodservice management company to be successful, it must equip itself with strong and prideful leaders. Leaders are essential for managing teams, lending a helping hand, providing support and encouragement, and more. In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re recognizing a few leaders who help Fresh Ideas realize our common purpose of creating happiness by producing a fresh food experience for people of all ages.
Alanda Cantrell, Director of Operations
Alanda Cantrell is Fresh Ideas’ Director of Operations and has served the company in a variety of roles for nearly 20 years. Alanda started as an assistant director of dining services and was quickly promoted to director. After a few years of serving as a director, she was asked to assist with safety inspections and eventually was promoted to Vice President of Safety and Compliance in 2020.
The COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S. shortly after her promotion, and Alanda quickly realized her role was essential to helping Fresh Ideas navigate the health crisis. With Alanda leading safety and compliance, Fresh Ideas worked diligently to take care of students and employees during that difficult time. The company understood that it was crucial to limit food service disruptions for students as much as possible. Alanda played a significant role in keeping students and staff safe during this time. Recently, she was promoted to Director of Operations where she assists with helping all of our dining facility operators run safely and efficiently.
Alanda describes her leadership style as leading with love and kindness. She believes in putting herself in the shoes of others whenever possible and being kind but clear with her communication. Alanda prefers to lead by example, providing a helping hand where she can. We’re proud to have leaders like Alanda who’ve held many roles at Fresh Ideas.
Susan Nawrocki, Regional Director of Operations
Like Alanda, Susan Nawrocki has worked in food service most of her life. She started as an assistant director of dining services and was promoted to director. Eventually, she was promoted to general manager, where she provided support to several dining teams. She’s currently a regional director of operations and provides support to multiple units throughout a wide region.
Susan leads her teams through the Fresh Ideas values of openness and respect. She believes those values go hand-in-hand in creating a comfortable and successful work environment. 
Susan is direct with her communication but is always there to listen and provide support to her teams. She, like many of our leaders, understands the importance of empathy. Having been in food service for most of her life, she knows what it’s like to work in different positions from the front of the house to the back of the house.
One of Susan’s favorite things about the food service industry is getting to work with many different people. She enjoys building relationships with her team members as well as the guests including students, faculty, and staff. “Being a big part of a school’s community and culture is important to us and makes Fresh Ideas unique in the food service industry.”
Abbey Smith, Director of Dining Services
Another one of Fresh Ideas’ prideful leaders is Abbey Smith, director of dining services at Missouri Valley College. She began her journey in the food service industry with hotel catering and eventually transitioned to K-12 schools.  Abbey joined Fresh Ideas in 2023, and we are fortunate to have her leading one of our college dining programs.
Abbey believes in an individualized leadership approach tailored to the situation and the people she works with. But she also collaborates with her teams often to help find the best solutions to problems when they arise.
Abbey and her team work hard to create an open and creative work environment. When it comes to the Fresh Ideas common values of openness, integrity, respect, diversity, creativity, and balance, she believes all of them are essential to fulfill our common purpose. “It takes a little bit of each of them in order to hold true to that promise.” However, she emphasizes openness between her and her team as well as integrity.
Like Abbey, Michelle Anderson is a director of dining services at Fresh Ideas. She has been in the food service industry since she was a teenager and frequently traveled the country learning different cooking techniques and culinary skills. Michelle started as a catering manager with Fresh Ideas and was eventually promoted to the director of dining services.
Michelle Anderson, Director of Dining Services
When it comes to leadership, Michelle likes to give her team as much autonomy as possible while still providing support. She also values integrity and respect between her and her team. Michelle understands the role of a leader and being a role model for many people. She likes to lend a helping hand when needed and help wherever she can.
Jade Bradford, Regional Director of Operations
Finally, we would like to recognize Jade Bradford. Jade is a Fresh Ideas veteran having been with the company for over 10 years and is currently a regional director of operations. Her first role at Fresh Ideas was as a barista.  Jade says the barista role was one of her favorites and is where her passion for food service began.
The Fresh Ideas values play a key role in Jade’s approach to leadership. She appreciates how the Fresh Ideas leadership team demonstrates and lives our values every day. When talking about our common purpose Jade mentioned, “Everyone in our company is focused on that common purpose. Day-to-day, all of our teams focus on that end goal.”
All of these women exhibit our values every day and lead their teams with pride. We are grateful to have each of them leading our teams and contributing to a thriving and successful work environment that helps us ensure we create happiness by producing fresh food experiences for people of all ages.

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