GOT A PEN? THIS MIGHT BE A LITTLE CONFUSING. First, you want to drive down Interstate 30-10-30, bypass the exit for SMI, but look for the one marked CRE. Right after the ramp, you’ll encounter a traffic circle, and it can get pretty gnarly, with markers for Indirect Costs, Competitive Foods, Insufficient Balances, Paid Meal Equity and so on. Just follow your nose, and hang a left when you see the sign for “Daily Participation.” Now, along this stretch, you gotta stay sharp, so you can negotiate all the detours around Tight Budgets, Negative Stereotypes and Other Agendas. You might hit more than a few dead-ends, if you’re not careful. If you do, there are a few service stations— Leadership, Training, Partnerships—in the area that can help you out. The route to school nutrition success has grown increasingly bumpy in recent years, and a conventional roadmap may not be updated often enough to keep pace with all the confusing obstacles between you and your goals. You might need some kind of allegorical GPS to stay on course. Attendees of SNA’s 2012 Child Nutrition Industry Conference (CNIC), held in Orlando, Fla., last January, found just the directional assist they needed to navigate the many changes faced by operators and industry working in the K-12 school nutrition segment. They also got a little practical—if unexpected and unusual—advice from staff at the host hotel Omni Championsgate: “Watch out for the alligator on the golf course.” A CNIC Snapshot Fortunately, everyone heeded the advice about the alligator, and the 539 CNIC participants were able to stay focused on change—change in the federal child nutrition programs, current and prospective changes in their individual operations and businesses and personal change and growth. This year’s program, developed by Co-chairs Julia Bauscher, SNS, and Gary Vonck, featured numerous insights from top experts in leadership, school nutrition operations, food manufacturing, consumer analysis, government, wellness and more to help attendees “Create Your Roadmap for Change.” • Pat Williams, senior vice president of the NBA’s Orlando Magic, has had 23 teams go to the playoffs and five of those make it to the finals. Clearly, Williams knows something about the proven principles for building winning teams; these include outstanding leadership evidenced by people skills, character, competence, boldness, a serving heart and total commitment. “If you have a leader who is on fire, it burns up an organization with passion.” • Dr. Brian Wansink, called the “Sherlock Holmes of Food,” shared innovative ways to design sustainable lunchrooms that subtly guide smarter student choices. Working with his Food & Brand Lab team, Wansink has identified many no-cost and low-cost strategies for operators, encouraging them to become “foodservice heroes.” [Editors’ Note: Look for more details about Wansink and the “Smarter Lunchroom” movement in an upcoming issue of School Nutrition.] • Phil Lempert, aka “The Supermarket Guru,” encouraged operators to focus on “Connection, Conversation and Community— what can we do in every cafeteria lunchroom to create these three things? … Ask yourself: What is the next big food trend? What three things about kids’ likes and dislikes do you wish you knew? Get into the cafeteria and find out!” • While the new meal pattern regulations had not yet been released, Cindy Long, director, Child Nutrition Division, Food and Nutrition Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, was on hand to discuss progress on the many regulatory provisions of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Long also was a member of a distinguished panel representing various segments of school nutrition that addressed such questions as changes to the CRE process, the consequences of paid meal equity, budget cuts and, of course, new nutrition standards for school meals. • As the first female winner of NBC’s “The Biggest Loser,” the inspiring weightloss reality show, Ali Vincent is fit, full of energy and working to spread her message of positivity, and how believing in herself and embracing self-confidence were the first steps to her amazing transformation. “I don’t know if I was fat because I was unhappy, or I was unhappy because I was fat. But it didn’t matter—I was both. … Healthy people are healthy because they choose to be healthy.” CNIC attendees also found numerous opportunities to share solutions, achievements and inspiration through the popular Innovation Stations, several Industry Information Sessions, wellness activities and the annual FAME Awards celebration. Program handouts and presentations made available to SNA can be found and downloaded at www.schoolnutrition.org/Level2_CNIC2012.aspx?id=16703. Check out the photos from this year’s event throughout this article, and mark your calendar today to save the dates for CNIC 2013 in San Antonio, Texas, January 13-15.
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