By Cathy Teria 2017-06-15 10:12:59
A day-to-day record of all the COOL ideas and sizzlin' events in Atlanta this year. School Nutrition traveled to the future in a time machine and discovered these diary entries reflecting on all the exciting events of SNA’s 71st Annual National Conference in Atlanta, Ga., July 9-12, 2017. Saturday, July 8, 2017 Dear Diary, Look out, Atlanta! We’ve arrived! I’m here for SNA’s Annual National Conference with two other managers in my district, Dot and Leticia. We’re sharing a room and it’s going to be a great girls’ getaway—business style! This is my third ANC, Dot’s fifth and Leticia’s first. None of us have been to Atlanta and we’re all looking forward to spending a little time seeing the sights. So far, everyone has been showing off that Southern hospitality! We got in last night, because Dot is attending Chapter Leadership Day this morning, I’m going to the pre-conference workshop on “Secrets of #SchoolNutrition Branding” and Leticia is attending the all-day session on “Food Safety in Schools.” Since we’re doing different events, we’ll all be able to compare notes and get even more out of ANC. I’m going to spend some time this afternoon with the different tools that we got at registration. The Program Guide has lots and lots of detail for planning; the Learning Journal will be my chief notebook and I’m going to try the ANC on the Go mobile app for the first time. I’m getting better and better with my smartphone, and they say this is a good tool for making connections and getting the latest updates. Dot and I are going to see if we can get some of the discount tickets we read about in School Nutrition and go to the Georgia Aquarium and other Atlanta sites. This afternoon is probably the only time we’ll get to be “tourists.” More details tomorrow! Sunday, July 9, 2017 Dear Diary, What a fantastic start to ANC17. When they said it would be full of “hot topics and cool connections,” they weren’t kidding! I’ve already been to four fascinating classes and met some really fun and friendly people from all across the country. I love this conference! The first of today’s education sessions for me was “Get the Facts About Food Allergies,” because every year we have more students who say they can’t eat bread or eggs or what have you. We are good at protecting against cross-contamination, but I got some great tips about ways to serve and protect these kids even better. Next, I attended “Consistency Is Key: How Standardized Recipes Can Benefit Managers and Staff.” I made a promise to myself that this is the year that I’m going to advance my SNA Certificate Level, and to do that, I need to know more about taking advantage of online resources for classes and other training. In the afternoon, I went to “Top 10 Culinary and Consumer Trends for Savvy Students.” I think it was a good pairing with the articles I read in the April magazine about Generation Z. I ended with “Reducing Food Waste,” which was really eye-opening about what a big problem this is in our country right now! We need to do our part. The Red Carpet Awards Ceremony is always inspiring. Even if you don’t personally know a winner, to sit with your state and cheer everyone on—well, I just feel like I’m part of this huge, loving family! And then, there’s the General Session, which seats THOUSANDS of people. Hearing all of SNA’s achievements over the last year? It’s amazing to be a part of an association that is raising our game all over the country. Right? We also got to hear from astronauts Mark and Scott Kelly. They are identical twins and have led such interesting lives! Their story is just another reason I’m proud to be an American. Tomorrow, I need to leave some time to stop by the School Nutrition Foundation booth and make my annual donation—it’s not much, but I know every little bit helps! I also want to check out the products in the SNA Shop & Bookstore. I want to see what I can pick up to help celebrate National School Lunch Week in the fall. So many other things to do, see and check out. Good thing I have three more days! Monday, July 10, 2017 Dear Diary, I was tempted to sleep in, but I got up early for the STEPS Challenge Wellness event. It was an energetic way to start the morning. It’s good to see so many smiles while working up a sweat, isn’t it? The Grand Opening of the Exhibit Hall is something to behold. There are so many people flowing through the entrance and the booths are too many to count—it’s incredible! It’s like a carnival. There’s music and lights and games to play. You can get your picture taken with different mascots. The new food and beverage products are so good. In one aisle, you might try a whole-grain breakfast cookie and in another, taste a spicy pulled chicken sandwich and they are both delicious! The Exhibit Hall is a lot of fun, but it’s also a terrific resource. All the exhibitors are really nice and helpful—they want to know about our programs and our kids. You can explain about your equipment and labor challenges and they’ll let you know how their product can help or if you should try something different. It’s not just about the food, either. We picked up good resources about recycling and composting; ideas for teaching kids about new fruits and veggies; a contest about school gardens; a neat merchandiser for the serving line—so much! My bags are going to be extra heavy with all the papers I’ve collected, but it’s worth it. I’ve discovered so many neat products. We made sure to stop by the School Nutrition booth to drop off our Ruby Reader entry forms. She was hard to find! We also had a chance to vote on the cover for the September issue of the magazine. I hope my vote wins—such a cute kid! I told them how much I always learn from the magazine and they told me that any time I had a topic to suggest, I should just shoot them an email. This year, I made a point to stop by the School Nutrition Research & Best Practices Showcase. These are posters about different projects, and today, the people who worked on the projects were available to answer questions. There was one about ways to set up the cafeteria line to encourage kids to make better choices—that was really interesting and something we might try. My priority for today’s education sessions was about becoming a better manager. So I went to the session called, “Staff Management—13 Common Errors That Managers Make and How to Avoid Them,” “Simple Solutions for Conflict Management” and “Coaching Employees for Success.” These were all so helpful! I got some great advice on how to improve in this area. But there were still so many classes I couldn’t fit into my schedule. I’m glad to hear that some of these might be available online in different ways. (I love the Wednesday Webinar series and the new Virtual Expo!) We’re headed out in a bit—we’ve been invited to a vendor party or two. We’ll see if we turn into pumpkins at midnight! Tuesday, July 11, 2017 Dear Diary, Another few quick notes after another day that flew by! It started with the Employee/Manager Section Meeting. (My director had hers on Sunday.) The speaker, Dave Weber, was so funny! He really had a great way of encouraging us to present ourselves in the best light. He “gets” us. The session was called “The Winner in YOU!” and I think we all left the room feeling charged up that working in school nutrition DOES make us all winners. I went to several education sessions today and they were all so interesting. I’m learning a lot this year. I decided to go to “Deciphering the Code: How to Read the New Packaged Food Labels,” because I want to make better decisions in the grocery store when I’m shopping for my family. I also attended “Nutrition in Disguise: Enticing Students to Choose Foods With Benefits.” With some of our kids, we need every trick in the book to convince them to eat healthier foods! “Build Customer Satisfaction with Flavor Stations,” was really interesting about ways that we can use condiments and spices to allow students to customize meals to THEIR tastes. Some good ideas we will try in the fall, for sure! We definitely got our steps in during our Exhibit Hall time, let me tell you! We tried so many yummy foods—I think they will all be winners with our kids. I highlighted my favorite booths in the Program Guide, so I don’t forget which ones to discuss with my director when we’re back home. We got off our feet for an hour at one of the Culinary Demonstrations. It featured a chef I’d read about a while back in School Nutrition, who has developed kid-tested menu items using dry peas, lentils and beans. We may have to try some of these recipes with our kids cooking club and then let that peer-to-peer word-of-mouth to do our work for us, hahahaha! Our state delegation photo was scheduled for today. It was amazing to see how many people from our part of the country came all the way to Atlanta for a professional conference! It really makes me proud and excited to work in this business and be a member of this organization. We decided to take advantage of the Night Out at Ponce City Market event. It was neat to go to a different part of Atlanta and see all the shops and restaurants in an old Sears building. We went up on the Roof, and they weren’t kidding about the view! It was fun to play mini-golf and just take it easy. One more full day to go! Wednesday, July 12, 2017 Drove downtown in the rain/Nine-thirty on a Tuesday night/Just to check out the late-night/record shop… Dear Diary, I really have to get to bed soon, since my flight leaves pretty early tomorrow morning. But, I just can’t get these catchy Barenaked Ladies tunes out of my head! What a great concert! What a great DAY! What a great CONFERENCE!!! It’s hard to believe it’s over, but I must admit that I’m ready to head home, because my brain is full! Even though I’m exhausted, I really want to write down a few memories, so I don’t forget anything. The morning kicked off with a General Session, where we saw the installation of the new Board of Directors and the passing of the “gavel” from President Becky Domokos-Bays to President-Elect Lynn Harvey. All these Board members are so inspiring to me. The way they raise the bar for all of us? I’m more determined now than ever to run for a state office next year. I’m writing it down to keep myself honest! We also heard a presentation from Alex Sheen. What a talented and inspiring young man! He created a social movement called “because I said I would” that’s all about making and keeping promises. He says promises should be made with seven principles in mind: compassion, self-control, sacrifice, honesty, hope, contemplation and accountability. He also believes that all the world’s problems could be solved if everyone had a greater sense of commitment. I agree! After the General Session, we went back to the Exhibit Hall. We stopped by the magazine booth first—I didn’t win a Ruby Reader prize this year, but someone I know from my state did! She’s going to be so excited! Anyway, I had fun searching through School Nutrition to find all the places where Ruby was “hiding,” and I made notes to go back and read several articles more carefully when I get home. After visiting the last few aisles of booths, it was time to head to the last rounds of education sessions. Once again, VERY hard to choose! I went to “You…Only More Professional,” with JoAnne Robinett. I loved the A-to-Z article she wrote on this topic in the December magazine. Then, in the afternoon, I went to “Feeding the Heart, Feeding the Body: Serving Line Relationships.” I am always looking for new customer service tips to share with the team back home. We had a nice walk before another delicious dinner, and then it was time for the Barenaked Ladies concert! We had great seats—and there were giant video screens everywhere. The band was so much fun and played all their hits, including the theme song to “The Big Bang Theory.” (I love that show.) Overall, it was a fantastic ANC—worth every penny. After schools open next month, and we have our first local chapter meeting, I’m going to propose a year-long fundraising activity so that all the ladies (+ Jerome and Luis) can join me in Las Vegas next summer for ANC 2018! (We’ll have to earn a little extra so we can get tickets to one of those great concerts, like Cher or Elton John.) Thank you, Atlanta! You’ve been a great host—and thanks to everyone in SNA. Best. Job. Ever.
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