In January, at SNA’s 2016 School Nutrition Industry Conference (SNIC), school nutrition operators and industry partners learned to become architects of a brighter future. Building a Successful Conference Provocative sessions focused on high-level business and leadership topics make SNIC a must-attend conference for hundreds of the nation’s top school nutrition directors and industry partners every year. A high bar was set for SNIC 2016 Program Co-chairs Mary Anderson and Michael Craig to oversee an energetic, productive event. With assistance from SNA President Jean Ronnei, SNS, and SNA CEO Patricia Montague, CAE, Anderson and Craig put a lot of creativity and considered thought into this year’s meeting: “Building Practical Solutions for School Nutrition.” Together they created a winning hand! Anderson is Culinary Express Supervisor for the Wayzata (Minn.) School District and Craig is co-founder of Nutrislice Building a School Nutrition Community From embracing old friends and meeting new ones to sharing strategies to overcome challenges to taking STEPS together toward personal health, SNIC provides an environment for unparalleled networking and engagement. Building a Competitive Future We can’t predict the future, but we can apply a little foresight to anticipate challenges and seize opportunities. Futurist Christian Crews of Kalypso, a global innovation consulting firm, worked with SNA to produce decks of school nutrition-specific “Trends Playing Cards.” Working in small groups, SNIC participants used these to shake up assumptions about the future, and learn a process that emphasizes an analytic approach to trends and their potential interactions. From understanding how social trends like “drone parenting” might collide with technology trends such as “game-ification,” for example, operators and vendors alike can gain a competitive advantage in developing new products or solutions to drive participation. Environmental, health, regulatory and economy trends are other drivers—and then there’s the inevitable wild card! Building New Product Solutions One hallmark of SNIC is the annual opportunity for industry partners to meet with small groups of school nutrition directors for meaningful dialogue about new products or those still in development. In three one-hour Innovative Solution Sessions, operators are introduced to new innovations, while offering their expertise, describing their challenges and providing valuable feedback. Fifteen companies participated. During Monday’s luncheon, more than 40 companies displayed new products and services as part of the Tabletop Showcase. This more-casual environment also allows for lasting business relationships to bloom and grow. Building an Improved You After looking at the big picture of trends that will influence society and school nutrition, two high-energy keynote speakers asked SNIC attendees to look within. Curt Steinhorst is an expert speaker on the topic of “generational kinetics,” and he offered an entertainingly self-deprecating view of his generation, the millennials, while noting that they are the fastest-growing generation in the workforce. “If you can’t figure out how to reach us, understand us and get along with us, your organizations will be left behind.” This is true of future customers, too, he warned. “‘The Jetsons’ is a world that’s already passed [them] by.” Valia Glytsis, founder and CEO of The Paradox of Leadership, guided attendees through the stages of developing a personal brand: Identifying what you stand for in a way that defines you and sets you apart. A personal brand, she noted, becomes a compass that provides clarity and focus in decision-making, career progression, relationships and personal satisfaction. Glytsis also offered a breakout session that allowed a smaller group to dive more deeply into the topic. Building on Knowledge and Expertise Engaging, interactive general sessions may be the calling card that keeps attendees coming back to SNIC each year. But even in sunny San Diego (during football playoffs, no less) there was fantastic retention for the many smaller, focused discussions on a wide variety of topics. These included: • A Saturday bonus session on business ethics featuring expert Wendy Patrick (1), a deputy district attorney in San Diego County’s Special Operations Division, and school nutrition consultant Barry Sackin, SNS (2), who has carved a specialist niche in procurement issues. • A bonus session on USDA Foods, as Dave Tuckwiller (3), commodity procurement division director, USDA/AMS, asked stakeholders to offer input toward an improvement initiative. • A keynote address from SNA Past President Katie Wilson, PhD, SNS, USDA deputy under secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services (5). • An operator-based panel sharing strategies and advice for offering points of sale outside the cafeteria (10). Left to right: Tamara Earl, SNS, Mason City, Ohio; Ken Yant, SNS, Gwinnett County, Ga.; Brent Craig, SNS, Douglas County, Colo. • A session on social media etiquette, courtesy of Don Schindler, senior vice president, digital initiatives, National Dairy Council (4). • An examination of consumer trends and how they play out in the policy landscape from Melissa Musiker, MPP, RD, a specialist in food and nutrition policy (8). • A primer on preparing for the Administrative Review, featuring Jaclyn Cantu (6), coordinator for Food & Nutrition, Texas Department of Agriculture, and Donna Parsons, MS, RD, SNS, SNA State Agency Representative. • Sessions specifically for industry members, including one from Technomic, Inc., Senior Vice President Joe Pawlak (9), who reviewed trends expected to influence the foodservice business • A session on the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the implications for school meals, led by SNA Vice President Lynn Harvey, EdD, RDN, SNS, (7) and SNA CEO Patricia Montague, CAE.
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