Daniel Westmoreland has been named as the Oxford School District’s incoming director of the Department of Child Nutrition for the Oxford School District. Westmoreland has lived in Oxford for nearly three decades. He has a degree in business management from the University of Mississippi and spent about 25 years in the restaurant business around town. Westmoreland took some time Monday afternoon to sit down with Oxford Citizen reporter Chaning Green to discuss the promotion and what the job will entail.
Chaning Green: How long have you been working with the Oxford School District?
Daniel Westmoreland: For a year and a half now. I am the cafeteria manager for the high school, and then July 1, I’ll be over all the schools in my new position. Captain Howington retires on July 1, but I’ll be coming in on June 1. I’ll be in his seat with him shadowing me for that month.
Green: How have you been training to get ready for your new position?
Westmoreland: The biggest thing I’ve been doing is making sure that I know all the laws and making sure I’m familiar with all the regulations with the different agencies I’ll be dealing with. Those would be the SNAP-Ed program and the Wellness program and how I’ll be working with those through administrators. It’s really about learning those laws and regulations and how those mix with all of the people I’ll be working with.
I’ve been doing most of my training here in Oxford. I did have to go to some food service training down in Jackson. I also just got back from the Smarter Lunchroom Symposium in New York. I still have a few other things I’ll be doing.
I’ve also spent a lot of time training as a cafeteria manager, so I have a bit of an advantage there. I’ve been through the introduction to child nutrition courses and some other training in Jackson. I’ve taken a few online classes. There were also rules and regulations that I had to learn in that position as well, so there’s training amuck, you could say.
Green: What’s your new job going to look like? What kind of responsibilities are you going to have?
Westmoreland: Basically, I’ll be responsible for everything that has anything to do with child nutrition within the Oxford School District. That includes the hiring of the child nutrition team, training, day-to-day operations and stuff like that. I’ll be working as the liaison between administrators and other people we work with like after school and summer programs. The buck will stop with me with anything having to do with child nutrition.
Green: How did you first become involved with the Oxford School District?
Westmoreland: I graduated from Ole Miss and worked in the restaurant business here for about 25 years. Once I became a single dad, I wanted to build a bridge out of the restaurant business into a field where I could have a decent schedule. I learned that Tim Howington had plans to retire, so I felt like I should go in as a cafeteria manager and learn that part of the job, hopefully taking up his position when he decided to leave. I felt that if was able to walk the walk with the cafeteria manager job, I would be able to show the district that I was the right guy for the job of director.
I did take a bit of a risk coming at the position like that, but I knew I could do a good enough job, and I knew I had the qualifications. I wanted to show them that.
Green: Do you like the work you’ve been able to do so far?
Westmoreland: Oh, I love it. This is my calling. I’ve always liked serving people. I really love serving the kids. It’s a shame how many kids in our country don’t get food when they leave school, so for me to be able to help with that and give these kids a nutritious meal makes me ecstatic. I love it.
Green: Do you think that the school district plays a role in the community here?
Westmoreland: Absolutely. The Oxford School District is the top in the state, when it comes to academics. I would have to believe, with athletics doing as well as they have been, if you ranked it across all areas, Oxford would be number one. I think it’s the best in the state. It’s very involved in the community. We work with Good Food for Oxford Schools and Food Corps and try to use as much locally sourced food as we can.
Green: What are you most looking forward to about starting this job?
Westmoreland: The point I’m most excited about is just feeding the kids. I just love the fact that we can be there for kids when they’re hungry. We all know that if kids have an empty stomach, they don’t perform as well in school. Being a dad and knowing how good it makes me feel knowing that my daughter has something to eat, there’s just nothing better to me than knowing these kids are being taken care of and have food in the stomachs.