Vienna, Va., Registered Dietitian Nutritonist Penny McConnell Receives Academy's Highest Award

September 15, 2015

CHICAGO – Registered dietitian nutritionist Penny E. McConnell, a nationally recognized pioneer in children's nutrition and school meals, has been named the 2015 recipient of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics' highest honor, the Marjorie Hulsizer Copher Award.

McConnell will receive the Copher Award October 3 at the Opening Session of the Academy's Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo in Nashville, Tenn.

The Marjorie Hulsizer Copher Award is named for an early 20th-century pioneer in dietetics who was recognized by the British and French governments for her service in World War I and was chief dietitian at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis. After her death, a gift from her husband to the Academy (then known as the American Dietetic Association) established the award in her honor.

An Academy member since 1969, McConnell retired in June after 50 years in food and nutrition service at the Fairfax County, Va., school district, the last 23 years as the service’s director. In addition to 238 schools in the system itself, with a diverse population of students from more than 100 countries, the food service’s 1,300 employees feed senior citizen centers, Head Start programs, private schools and child care centers. Under McConnell's direction, more than 27 million low-cost, nutritious meals have been produced and delivered each year to more than 145,000 customers.

In the words of a colleague: "Penny has been an incredible role model for me and scores of other Virginia RDs, as well as nutrition experts throughout the nation and world, in her pursuit of practice excellence and dedication to the advancement of our proud profession here and abroad. In her storied career, Penny has touched the future in the children she has served daily for five decades and the colleagues she has inspired in her determination to make a difference."

McConnell and her team have won numerous awards for innovations in nutrition standards, best practices, whole food menus and nutrition education, including the School Nutrition Association's Outstanding School Nutrition Program of the Year and Keys to Excellence; the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Healthier US School Challenge Award and Best Practices Nutrition Education; the Produce for Better Health Foundation's National Excellence Award for Employee and Community Education Efforts; and a Grade A Nutrition Report Card and Golden Carrot Award from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. Nick Jr. magazine listed one of her facilities among the top 10 outstanding school cafeterias in the country.

McConnell received the Academy;s 2010 Wimpfheimer-Guggenheim Award, which promotes the exchange of dietetics information throughout the world. She is also a past recipient of the Academy's Excellence in Management Practice Award, Food Management magazine's Best Concept award and the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association's Silver Plate Award. She received the Academy's 2011 Medallion Award for service to the organization and profession.

McConnell has authored dozens of articles, position papers, manuals and school curriculums. Her School Feeding Toolkit, co-authored in 2008 and now in its third edition, is used internationally by the Global Child Nutrition Foundation, in countries including, Bolivia, China, Mali and Mozambique. This publication has been translated into Chinese, French, Portuguese and Spanish.

McConnell's colleagues conclude: "Schools meals are healthier, better tasting and more available because of the standards and staff education implemented by Penny McConnell over a career of service in child nutrition."

McConnell is a graduate of the University of Manitoba. She earned a master's degree from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

Eligible journalists are welcome and encouraged to cover the Academy's conference. To pre-register for media credentials, visit For more information, call 800/877-1600, ext. 4769 or 4806, or email [email protected].


The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is the world's largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. The Academy is committed to improving the nation's health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy. Visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics at