By Gay Anderson, SNS, SNA Education Committee Chair 2014-05-02 17:34:35
Help Is Always at Hand Have you heard the saying “May you live in interesting times” incorrectly attributed as an ancient Chinese curse? There’s no truth to this origin, but the phrase can’t shake its notorious reputation. And these are definitely interesting times for the school nutrition profession! Maybe some of you think that we are cursed, but despite the aggravations and obstacles, I try to look at these days as a time of ultimately positive change and opportunity. It may seem that each month brings fresh challenges, from a flurry of new and proposed federal regulations to trying to stay current with the best ways to market to kids in an ever-changing social media whirl. But every month also seems to bring new resources, tools and ideas to help us out—if nowhere else but in the pages of School Nutrition! Even beyond our award-winning magazine, of course, SNA is continually working to develop new and improved programs and services to help us meet our daily challenges. Last month, for example, the online Summer Feeding Toolkit was updated for 2014. Later this summer, SNA will roll out exciting changes to our SchoolNutrition.org website. In between, there’s the Annual National Conference (ANC) in Boston. And near and dear to my heart as Education Committee Chair is the launch of the new Keys to Excellence online benchmarking tool. While the tool is still in the final test phase, I can confirm that it is very easy to use! Much of it is intuitive, and SNA has compiled handy tips and advice to streamline the process even further. For example, an online Tip Sheet link offers suggestions for the data you should gather, where you can find it and who you should talk to in advance. A Quick Start Guide features illustrated descriptions of how to enter the data, invoke comparisons and run reports. When you’re ready, it will take about two hours to enter the required information. Of course, you can stop and start again as your schedule demands. Once you’ve enter all of the details, you can compare your operation to other districts across the country. Comparisons can be filtered by, for example, districts of similar size or demographic or geography. You can evaluate your program’s strength against national standards and identify Key Performance Indicators. Best of all, this tool is going to be indispensable in preparing for our three-year administrative review process. Plus, it will offer quantifiable data to share with your administration, school board, legislators, media and parents, helping you to promote your achievements and make the case for necessary changes. Stay tuned to the magazine and SchoolNutrition.org for details on the official launch, expected at ANC. In the meantime, I encourage you to keep a positive perspective on these interesting times, mindful of all the many reasons we love this business.
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