Mingling with cherry blossom-seeking tourists, hundreds of school nutrition advocates traversed miles of Capitol Hill hallways to share firsthand accounts of school meal success. Some might consider it a good omen for positive legislative and regulatory support in the coming months. For the first time, SNA’s annual Legislative Action Conference (LAC) coincided with the peak bloom of Washington, D.C.’s famous cherry blossoms. This was despite overwarm temps in February aggravated by a late snow/freeze in March that had most bloom-watchers initially predicting a peak that would precede LAC by a week, then warning that the buds might fail to reveal their full, breathtaking glory at all. So, while there is a great deal of anxiety about how school nutrition programs may be affected by changes in the Administration and Congress, advocates can, perhaps, have faith. Of course that faith is not just placed in meteorological augurs (although that doesn’t hurt), but in the power of the evidence-based success of school meals, the long history of bipartisan support for these programs and the grassroots passion of school nutrition professionals telling their stories. A record-setting 944 attendees came together April 2-4, to tell those stories to their lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Before charging the Hill, LAC participants were fortified by fresh ideas and inspiration offered in breakout sessions; strategic plans for congressional visits by state delegations; and the compelling advice and insights of several general session speakers and panelists affirming the power of SNA and its members. “The nobility of [what you do] will be recognized by the left, right and center,” noted Fireside Chat panelist Chuck Connor, former deputy of agriculture. “Thank you,” Keynote Speaker Jon Meacham said to those assembled. “You fulfill what is the baseline of civilization. You feed the hungry and protect the defenseless. There is no greater measure of a civilization than that.” LAC 2017 By the Numbers • SNA’s 45th annual Legislative Action Conference was attended by 944 school nutrition operators, vendors, allies and government representatives. This included 305 industry attendees from a whopping 122 companies. With 6 SNA past presidents and 119 enthusiastic first-timers also in attendance, SNA’s past, present and future were well-represented! • School nutrition operators attending LAC came from 407 school districts, serving a collective enrollment of just over 9 million students. • SNA’s 16-member Public Policy & Legislation Committee, chaired by Doug Davis, SNS (and including Board and staff advisors), helped plan a dynamic program, focused primarily on conveying the priorities of SNA’s 2017 Position Paper. Attendees gained helpful advice and reflections from 6 Washington watchers and insiders: Keynote Speaker Jon Meacham and a “Fireside Chat” panel moderated by Agri-Pulse Senior Editor Philip Brasher and featuring Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman and former Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Conner, as well as Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin and William Hoagland, who each played important agriculture roles in Congress. • The ballroom at the J.W. Marriott was no less packed for a panel of lesser-known, but arguably even more significant local guests: 7 students from 2 area school districts—Montgomery County and Prince George’s County School Districts, both in Maryland—demonstrated candor, grace, humor and solicitude when answering questions from Moderator and SNA President Becky Domokos-Bays, PhD, RD, SNS, as well as from the audience. • Attendees gained useful updates and resources from a panel of 5 child nutrition experts with USDA. They highlighted current initiatives related to USDA Foods, Team Nutrition and Farm to School, but opted not to preview future administrative actions in “these uncertain times.” • Participants had their pick of 6 different breakout sessions developed to provide expert advocacy help, as well as best practice solutions to operational challenges. These included “Successful State Lobbying Strategies,” “Hot Topics in School Nutrition” and “Recruit and Retain Young Professionals.” • Preceding the conference, 49 school nutrition directors were invited to attend SNA’s 7th Executive Leadership Program at Georgetown University, made possible through the generous support of 4 sponsors: Heartland School Solutions, ITW/FEG, Land O’Lakes and SFSPac. • Also paving the way to the official program was a pre-conference session featuring advocacy expert Walter Oleszek. More than 35 registrants attended this presentation on the November 2016 election results and their implications for lawmaking in the new Congress. • SNA’s Political Action Committee, chaired by Linda Irby, SNS, raised $6,000; these funds will be used to advocate for effective school nutrition policy with federal legislators. • The 4th annual Celebration of School Nutrition Heroes was a success before the doors even opened, with a total of 28 sponsors and 390 individual guests helping to generate more than $250,000! This event, coordinated by the School Nutrition Foundation as the only annual fundraising event for SNA’s sister organization, honored 5 inspiring and deserving models of distinguished service making outstanding contributions to the profession at large. The Annual Celebration of School Nutrition Heroes Now in its fourth year, the annual Celebration of School Nutrition Heroes is a singular fundraising event for the School Nutrition Foundation (SNF), SNA’s philanthropic sister organization. The event, held in conjunction with SNA’s annual Legislative Action Conference, honors five exceptional individuals for their remarkable service, volunteerism and dedication to both school and community, in addition to their engagement with state and local chapters. The 2017 honorees are: • David Schwake, MS, RD, SNS, Food Service Director, Litchfield Elementary School District #79, Litchfield Park, Arizona • Timikel Sharpe, MS, Former Deputy Director of Food Service, Los Angeles Unified School District, Los Angeles, California • Doreen Simonds, Director, Nutrition & Purchasing Services, Waterford School District, Waterford, Michigan • Elizabeth Whidden, Child Nutrition Program Manager, Hoover City Schools, Hoover, Alabama • Betti Wiggins, CPM, Former Executive Director of Office of School Nutrition, Detroit Public Schools, Detroit, Michigan Longer profiles of this year’s class of School Nutrition Heroes and their award-winning initiatives will be featured in School Nutrition’s June/July 2017 issue. Thank You! This year’s Celebration of School Nutrition Heroes would not have been possible without the generous support of the following sponsors: Premier • AdvancePierre Foods Leaders • AccuTemp Products, Inc. • Foster Farms • Jennie-O Turkey Store • KeyImpact Sales & Systems • Land O’Lakes Dairy Foods • Los Cabos Mexican Foods • Mott’s • National Dairy Council • Schwan’s Food Service Inc. Champions • Conference Direct • Heartland School Solutions • JTM Food Group • School Nutrition Association • SFSPac Food Safety & Sanitation System • SMART Temps Supporters • ConAgra Foodservice • Cool School Café • The CORE Group • Domino’s • GES • J&J Snack Foods • PepsiCo Foodservice • PSAV • Red Gold • Ruiz Foods • Somma Foods • Ultragrain/Ardent Mills
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