By Kelsey Casselbury 2013-06-11 22:24:04
Are you coming to Kansas City this summer? The school nutrition event of the year will feature all of the inspiration, learning and product solutions that your heart desires! Should I follow my head, or should I follow my heart? That’s the response we often have when faced with a dilemma. In most cases, we’re contemplating two very different outcomes: one that we logically know is the smart answer and one that speaks to what we truly desire. When you work in child nutrition, this dilemma can pop up frequently; it’s one of the reasons the profession is so unique. It’s rooted in compassion and a recognition of the importance of feeding America’s school children. But a school meals program is also a business, one that involves regulations, number-crunching and conflicting stakeholder groups. Is it any wonder that head and heart often collide? But when it comes to SNA’s Annual National Conference (ANC), there is no dilemma. ANC has something to offer everyone in this business, whether your goal is to tackle food insecurity, improve your leadership skills or manage a budget more effectively. In other words, whether you follow your heart or your head—right into the “Heart of the Nation,” Kansas City, Mo., ANC 2013’s home July 14-17—you’ll be making the right decision, both for you and your school nutrition operation. Heart of the Matter If there’s one person who’s excited for ANC 2013, it’s mostly certainly SNA President-Elect Leah Schmidt, SNS. Not only will she be installed as the Association’s president for 2013-14 at the final General Session on July 17, but because she calls the “City of Fountains” (Kansas City’s official nickname) home, she’ll be marking this years-in-the-making occasion surrounded by an impassioned local cheering section comprised of members and friends from her nearby district. It’s a coincidence that doesn’t happen very often. “For me, it’s really special,” she says. “I have a lot of staff that have never experienced ANC, so it will be fun to see it through fresh eyes.” How about you? Will you be joining Schmidt, SNA President Sandra Ford, SNS, and thousands of your colleagues from all around the country this summer? To compel fence-sitters (there’s still time to register!), welcome first-timers and salute returning veterans, School Nutrition asked a few of the Association’s leaders to share their favorite features of the school nutrition event of the year, along with a few words of advice and a preview of some of the highlights you’ll enjoy in Kansas City in July. Heart’s Content Ask 10 SNA members what they consider the “heart” of ANC each year, and you’ll likely get 10 different answers. But for many, it’s the education sessions, which reinvigorate a passion for the profession and open the mind to new ways of operating and interacting with students, industry and each other. They are certainly a highlight for ANC 2013 Program Chair Jonathan Dickl, SNS, who insists that he almost always returns home from each ANC with memories of “a speaker that left an indelible mark on me.” Indeed, it’s part of Dickl’s job to ensure that other attendees will feel the same way on July 18. “The planning team reviews conference content to ensure that there are many sessions that meet the needs of all groups represented within SNA,” Dickl notes, wanting to dispel any misperceptions that ANC is geared only toward directors and experienced managers. While there are an astonishing 90+ sessions during the official run of the conference from Sunday, July 14, to Wednesday, July 17, don’t miss the opportunity to get a head start on learning. Seven pre-conference session will be held on Saturday, July 13, featuring a range of topics from leadership training to understanding the USDA Foods program to improving financial management skills—they’re worth hopping on an early plane to attend. Each of these sessions offer between four and eight Continuing Education Units (CEUs) for operators seeking to maintain or move up a level in their SNA certification (but more about that later). You might feel overwhelmed as you browse the official ANC Program Guide, which lists all of the dozens of education sessions from which to choose—and no one could blame you for being indecisive about which ones seem worth your time! But don’t let that deter you from finding the right learning opportunities to meet your needs. “There are classes on how to help ourselves and others,” says SNA School Nutrition Employee/Manager Representative Nancy Thatcher, a manager working in Carlsbad, N.M. Each year at ANC, “I have learned so much about nutrition.” To make your planning a bit easier and ensure you don’t overlook something right on target, Dickl and his committee have organized these sessions into different tracks. Each session falls under one of SNA’s four Keys to Excellence: Administration, Operations, Nutrition and Communications & Marketing. Additionally, certain sessions have been identified as “hot topics” or deemed particularly helpful to New Directors. But how can you keep track of which sessions you want to attend, and make sure that none of them overlap? Once again, it’s SNA to the rescue! A new resource for ANC this year is an interactive website—available on both your conventional computer browser and your smartphone or tablet mobile browser. Among the features of the new site is a tool that allows you to search through all the education sessions (providing important details, such as speaker and room information) and add the ones you select to a personalized calendar. You will know instantly if two sessions you had your eye on are scheduled at the same time and can check to see if one or both are repeated. If you have a smartphone, that personalized calendar will be right at your fingertips all throughout the conference. For more information about this handy improvement, see the box on page 90. Back to the topic of CEUs—attending ANC is one of the very best opportunities you will find all year long to meet the requirements for earning, maintaining or advancing your professional development through SNA’s Certification and Credentialing programs. After attending the full ANC, you will be credited with 25 CEUs. Even if you can only make one day of this year’s conference, you can earn CEUs. For example, a one-day registration and attendance on Tuesday, July 16, with the open Exhibit Hall, ed sessions and a general session all on the agenda, will provide you with eight CEUs. Need Key Area Hours to meet initial requirements for one of the three levels of certification? Several pre-conference and education sessions offer Key Area Hours; check the official ANC Program Guide for details. Ready to take the qualifying exam for your School Nutrition Specialist designation? That opportunity is available at ANC, as well. Note, however, that you must register for the exam separately by June 21. Visit www.schoolnutrition.org/sns for details. Of course, some of the best learning opportunities at ANC come from simply mingling with other SNA members. It’s not often that nutrition professionals on the West Coast get to learn how programs operate on the East Coast or in the South. Take time to introduce yourself, ask questions and share your views with members from across the country. Heart and Soul For as many people who declare education sessions to be the soul of ANC, plenty of others think it’s the Exhibit Hall—the whole shebang, vendor booths, plus the Culinary Demos, Cutting-Edge Complex, Catch the Moment photos, Wellness Village and more. And why not? “It is very energetic, fun and visually appealing, with colorful graphics and attractive booth designs,” says Tina Bulle of ConAgra Foods, describing the atmosphere, which mixes business with the spirit of a carnival. “Companies commit a lot of work and energy in attracting customers to our booths.” Given the complexities of school nutrition programs, some might find it easiest to stick with tried-and-true solutions. However, as the world around us continues to evolve at a dizzying pace, it’s worth looking into the new products, new services and new solutions designed to help you keep up and keep current. At ANC, you’ll find hundreds of booths— as of press time, it was 832 and counting!— featuring numerous products from more than 360 companies. The Exhibit Hall is packed with both familiar, trusted company partners and vendors brand new to the K-12 market— all eager to make you acquainted with their latest innovations. You will find a complete list beginning on page 94. Whether you’re trying to find a more efficient dishwashing solution, decrease sodium in weekly menus or discover the latest offering in a favorite product line, you can be assured that the answers you seek lie in SNA’s much-lauded Exhibit Hall. As in years past, the Hall will open with a brief ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday, July 15. Once inside, pace yourself to check out everything it has to offer—after all, you have three days to wander up and down each aisle! There’s good reason that the number-one ANC tip from both Jon Dickl and Leah Schmidt is to wear comfortable shoes. After all, after touring the Exhibit Hall, you’ll also want to check out the attractions of Kansas City (see the box on page 86). Beyond your encounters with vendors (and their samples!), make time to check out one of the sponsored Culinary Demonstrations, featuring bona fide teaching valuable skills for scratch and speed scratch preparation. The presentations held at the Cutting-Edge Complex will showcase equipment and software solutions to help you improve program efficiency. Gather your friends to take your picture at “Catch the Moment.” Featuring backgrounds ranging from Kansas City conference settings to the cover of School Nutrition magazine, it will be a terrific memento of your conference experience. Feet sore and shoulders weary from toting all the product literature and giveaways you’ll collect? Take a load off your tootsies at the Wellness Village, where you can indulge in a short massage, as well as pick up healthy living tips from a number of helpful organizations. And if you want to be the ultimate insider, sign up to be a “Secret Shopper” for School Nutrition magazine; we’re looking for conference attendees to visit a myriad of exhibitors and tell us what you think are the coolest products available now. To learn more and volunteer, contact email@example.com by June 30. Full of Heart Working in the school nutrition profession requires dedication and persistence, and hardly a week goes by without a challenge that bears frustration beyond belief. This year, SNA welcomes three General Session speakers who understand what it means to confront and combat such challenges, demonstrating a determination and optimism to keep moving forward. On Sunday, join SNA’s leaders in welcoming Al Roker, co-host of the venerable “Today” show, esteemed author and successful entrepreneur. America has followed Roker’s very public weightloss battles, his ever-optimistic spirit always evident on the air. Roker wears many hats in his daily life, and he will use them all to create an engaging story to share with ANC attendees at the Opening General Session. On Tuesday, broadcast journalist Lisa Ling will speak at the Second General Session. Ling, an early co-host of “The View,” has gone on to present provocative segments for “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and “National Geographic Explorer.” Today, she’s host of “One America With Lisa Ling” on OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network. Ling began reporting at the tender age of 21, and since then, she’s focused on unearthing human interest stories, both domestic and international, which are too often ignored. Listen as Ling shares the importance of digging a little deeper and uncovering the less-obvious problems that affect our society. Wednesday, the final day of ANC, will kick off with a celebration of school nutrition superheroes, as children’s book author Jarrett J. Krosockza takes the stage at the Third General Session. The author of the Lunch Lady graphic novel series, Krosockza has nothing but praise for the profession—don’t miss Krosoczka’s story of how his childhood lunch lady inspired him to create an indelible character who lives a secret life as a schoolyard superhero. And, of course, don’t forget about the Final Event! ANC officially closes with a toe-tappin’, hip-shakin’ concert from country rocker Darius Rucker. The former lead singer of Hootie and the Blowfish has made brand-new fans with such chart toppers as “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It” and “Come Back Song.” His rendition of “Wagon Wheel” hit Number One on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs list on April 1, 2013. A ticket to the event is included in your registration, but space is limited, so make sure you indicate your intention to attend this hot event on the official ANC registration form. Heart to Heart In the end, the education sessions and Exhibit Hall might be seen as the practical portion of ANC’s rich smorgasbord, feeding your head, so to speak. Some first-time visitors are often surprised by the mixture of fun events and hard work that has become a unique hallmark of ANC, says Jon Dickl. But it’s the connections forged and inspiration found in engaging with thousands of your peers that will warm your heart. Leah Schmidt counts “networking and getting to see old friends that I only get to see once a year” among her top favorite aspects of this annual event. “I was awestruck at my first ANC, and sometimes I still am!” exclaims Nancy Thatcher. The amount of work that goes into planning and executing the annual conference is quite amazing— but so are the rewards you’ll bring home once it’s all over. Kelsey Casselbury is associate editor of School Nutrition. Photography by Slobodan Vasic, Hemera Technologies, Jupiterimages and Thinkstock Images. Many find the education sessions, which reinvigorate a passion for the profession and open the mind to new ways of operating and interacting with students, industry and each other, to be the “heart” of ANC. Exploring Kansas City Every thing’s up to date in Kansas City! This Broadway- inspired mantra rings true today, particularly when it comes to recently revitalized neighborhoods, such as the energetic Power & Light District. “The District boasts a unique nightlife experience with covered outdoor seating called ‘The Living Room’ that is centrally situated within unique restaurants and bars and often feature s local stage entertainment,” says Missouri resident and SNA member Grennan Sims. But that’s not to say that longstanding tradition s have fallen by the wayside. Features that Kansas City has long been known for—notably, jazz music and barbecue —are still vital aspects of what makes the cit y a Midwestern jewel. A number of SNA members recommend Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue (13441 Holmes Road; www.jackstackbarbecue.com) as t he place to go for great food. Other can’t- miss attractions, according to Sims , include Country Club Plaza (“Great restaurant s. Great shopping.”), Liberty Memorial World War I Muse um and the Kansas City Zoo, featuring a new polar bear exhibit. Pack lightweight layers, suggests SNA member Lori Danella, SNS, another Missourian. Kansas City in July is known to be hot and humid, so short sleeves, capris and comfy walking s hoes are the way to go; but since conference rooms can b e quite cool, bring a sweater, too, she advises. For mo re information about traveling to Kansas City, navigate your way to www.visitkc.com. Many find the Exhibit Hall to be the “soul” of ANC. It is worth looking into the new products, new services and new solutions designed to help you keep up and keep current. At ANC, you’ll find hundreds of booths featuring numerous products from more than 360 companies. ADD TO YOUR AGENDA SNA’s Annual National Conference offers a wide range of don’t-miss events to meet, greet—and tweet! • Chapter Leadership Day (8 a.m. to noon, Saturday, July 13; separate registration required) • Inspirational Service (8:15 to 9:15 a.m., Sunday, July 14) • SNA Red Carpet Awards Ceremony (9:30 to 11:30 a.m., Sunday, July 14) • New Directors Reception (5 to 6 p.m., Sunday, July 14; invitation only) • Child Nutrition Showcase (Monday, July 15, and Tuesday, July 16) • Membership section meetings (Monday, July 15, and Wednesday, July 17; check onsite schedule for specific times) ANC Goes Mobile! Afraid you’ll get lost in the Exhibit Hall? Can’t keep track of all the education sessions you want to attend? Forget the room number for the State Delegation photos? While your onsite ANC Program Guide is a valuable resource, SNA is working to make your conference experience even more efficient and satisfying with the launch of special interactive online features available on both your computer browser and via your mobile or tablet browser. When using your desktop or laptop, bookmark www.schoolnutrition.org/anc. For your mobile device, you’ll find the l ink at m.marketart.com/SNA. The sites will feature maps of the Kansas City Convention Center and ANC Headquarter Hotel Kansas City Marriott, broken down into floors and identifying each location where events are scheduled. A section dedicated to education sessions allows you to perform a search by speaker, key area or session title. Select those that catch your eye and add them to your online agenda. Another tool will help you navigate to the exact location. Last, but certainly not least, browse the Exhibitors section, which lists all vendors participating in ANC 2013 in alphabetical order. Click on listed booth numbers to easily find your way across the crowded Hall. Exhibitors can be added to your agenda, as well. The websites are completely synced; if you create an account on your computer at home and add items to your calendar or task list, simply sign in on your tablet or smartphone to access the information while you’re in Kansas City. Making the most of ANC has never been easier! ANC has something to offer everyone in this business, whether your goal is to tackle food insecurity, improve your leadership skills or manage a budget more effectively. Kelsey Casselbury is associate editor of School Nutrition. Photography by Slobodan Vasic, Hemera Technologies, Jupiterimages and Thinkstock Images.
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