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2017 Healthy School Hero: Joshua Bain

General Manager of Foodservice, Elizabethtown Area School District

As general manager of foodservice for Elizabethtown Area School District in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Joshua Bain is in a unique position to influence students’ health. Although “GM” is his official title, Bain essentially serves as the district’s child nutrition director, working to promote healthy food choices and partnering with outside organizations to maximize the impact of the child nutrition program’s various initiatives.

Bain seems to be in the right job. He says he’s always been passionate about young people, food, and leading an active lifestyle, and having his own kids–Josiah, 5, and Mayli Grace, 3–only gave him a heightened sense of their importance.

“Our society has, in many ways, marginalized eating ‘real’ food, cooking together, and taking care of our bodies,” he says. “I feel that if we can ignite a passion for these things in young people, we can change our culture for the better.”

Bain and his family recently relocated to Central Pennsylvania from Corrigan, Texas, where he held a similar role in the Corrigan-Camden Independent School District. There, his successes included shifting the priorities of the child nutrition program to emphasize made-from-scratch menu items; implementing self-serve fresh fruit and vegetable bars at every campus, every day; and holding “Roving Chef” classes for students, allowing them to participate in the creation of their own healthy meals.

But Bain’s favorite project was the Fall Farmers Market at Corrigan-Camden Elementary. Throughout the month of October, the district featured locally sourced products in all the cafeterias as part of National Farm to School Month. For the culmination, Bain partnered with local businesses, the district’s main food distributor, and Southwest Foodservice Excellence to host a farmers market on Halloween at the elementary school’s annual Trunk-or-Treat event. The market featured more than a dozen fresh fruits and vegetables along with informational signage and samples, and students, parents and community members were encouraged to touch, smell and taste a wide variety of items.

“The response was overwhelmingly positive,” Bain says. “Hundreds of samples were served, and many parents were surprised to find out that their kiddos do, in fact, enjoy fresh veggies!”

Bain is just as passionate about exposing students in Lancaster to new foods, and he’s excited to implement many of the programs in his new district that he helped get off the ground in Corrigan. He is currently in discussions with vendors to put together a farmers market there and says his goal is to host a farmers market at each of the district’s campuses by the end of the 2017-2018 school year. While there will always be financial and cultural hurdles to overcome in order to make positive changes in school and student health, Bain says, he keeps his eye on the prize.

“The most rewarding part of my work is watching young people make healthy choices as the result of an initiative I’ve overseen,” he says. “It never gets old.”