Marla Caplon, director of the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Division of Food and Nutrition Services, was honored on March 12 as a “Hero Against Hunger” by Manna Food Center, a nonprofit organization that works to eliminate hunger in Montgomery County.
Caplon served on Manna’s board of directors for eight years—from September 2006 through September 2014—and remains very involved with the group. Manna recognized her not only for her service on the Board, but also for her behind-the-scenes work to help end hunger.
“I am honored to receive this award from Manna and to work closely with an organization that is so deeply committed to the well-being of our students and families,” Ms. Caplon said.
A registered dietician, Caplon was instrumental in guiding the development of the Smart Sacks program. Working with businesses and community organizations, the Smart Sacks program sends bags of healthy food home each Friday with about 2,300 MCPS students who receive Free and Reduced-price Meals Services (FARMS), meaning they are living near or below the poverty line.
“If the students received FARMS during the week, on Fridays, we send them home with a bag of family-friendly food, like rice, canned vegetables and some fruit, so families can prepare meals over the weekend,” said Jackie DeCarlo, Manna Food’s executive director. “Marla helped us make sure that the program made sense in terms of the realities of the kids. She made sure that the kids didn’t feel singled out. Some of them may not have another full meal until Monday. She made sure we helped them be ready to learn on Monday.”
In MCPS, Caplon oversees food and service operations in all 202 MCPS schools, as well as other nutrition programs, including summer meals. She has overseen significant improvements to the variety and nutritional value of meals offered in MCPS schools. She was honored by Manna during a reception at Kentlands Mansion in Gaithersburg on Thursday, March 12.
“She always finds a way forward, even when there are competing interests,” DeCarlo said. “She really has brought an awareness and understanding of how our food needs to be healthy for kids, so it can help them be strong and ready to learn.”