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Alumni News Joseph H Huffstutler April 17, 2018

Donna S. Martin, a 1977 graduate of what was then the UAB Master of Science in Clinical Nutrition/Dietetics program, is the UAB School of Health Professions’ 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award winner. Martin becomes only the 48th person to earn the highest honor awarded to our alumni – a number that is even more impressive when you consider we have more than 18,000 graduates in our history.

“I am so humbled to receive this award, from such a prestigious institution, one that has given me the knowledge and skills to allow me to do something I love,” said Martin, director, Burke County (Georgia) School Nutrition Program and president, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). “I am so grateful to have a job where I am able to make a difference in the lives of children every day.”

Martin took over the nutrition program at Burke County Public Schools – five schools with more than 4,500 students located just south of Augusta, in 2001. During her tenure, she has led four of the schools to earn the Gold winner ranking in the HealthierUS School Challenge. In addition to creating healthier menus for all of her schools – the system serves breakfast, lunch, after-school snacks and supper – Martin was able to energize her students, engage her community and find creative ways to fund the improvements.

”It is not hard to sell good nutrition for children when you realize how you can impact not only their lives, but the lives of their families too. Every child deserves to have the opportunity to be ready to learn at school and that requires them being fueled for learning,” said Martin. “Children need to be hungry for education, not hungry!”

Donna Martin SHP 2017 Distinguished Alumni AwardIn 2016, Martin’s work gained national attention when First Lady Michelle Obama and Al Roker visited Burke Middle School to help plant a school garden as part of Mrs. Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative. Martin was subsequently invited to speak at the White House for the celebration event recognizing all the work that had occurred in changing how children eat. At that event, the First Lady gave Martin the ultimate compliment.

“[The program’s success] happened because Food Service Directors like Donna Martin, who worked day and night to come up with healthy recipes that would make kids love their lunches -- baking chicken instead of frying it, making pizza with whole wheat crust -- homemade whole wheat crust, by the way, loading it with vegetables,” said Mrs. Obama. “And I have to tell you, we visited some of those schools. Those kids were cleaning their plates. We were cleaning our plates. It was the only school I’ve ever gone to where the staff was trying to get Styrofoam takeout to eat lunch on the plane. That has never happened before.”

Currently, Martin serves as president of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics – the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. She is the first School Nutrition Director to be the AND president. She is also the first UAB graduate to hold this prestigious position.

Martin has been, and will continue to be, an inspiration to all who follow her.

“Donna Martin’s career achievements speak volumes about who she is as a dietitian and a person. Donna is humble, gracious, and determined to make a difference in the lives of others. I am honored to know Donna and have her as a mentor,” said Carleton Rivers, program director, UAB Dietetic Internship program. “Donna has revolutionized school nutrition! Her work as a school nutrition director will stretch way beyond Burke County and have an impact on countless students to come. Donna is a powerhouse in the profession of nutrition and dietetics and very deserving of the Distinguished Alumni Award.”

During her career, Martin has received countless awards including Recognized Young Dietitian of the Year and the Outstanding Dietitian of the Year from the Georgia Dietetic Association; the Excellence in Practice Award from the Academy's School Nutrition Services dietetic practice group; the Academy Foundation's 2007 Judy Ford Stokes Award for Innovation in Administrative Dietetics; and the 2016 Golden Radish Award for the state of Georgia because of her efforts in the Farm to School Movement.

The SHP Distinguished Alumni Award is given to prominent alumni who have achieved distinction through exceptional contribution to their professions. This award highlights the diverse talents, notable accomplishments and extraordinary service of our alumni and is reserved for those with a history of excellence in their careers. Donna Martin encapsulates this award and we are proud to have her as our 2017 winner.

Click here to see past SHP Distinguished Alumni Award winners.

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