By Toni Vega Aiken, SNA Senior Program Manager; Christina Uticone, SN Contributing Editor; and Patricia Fitzgerald, SN Editor 2017-09-28 14:33:00
There is no better stamp of approval than abiding by an ethical code of conduct. One of the defining characteristics of the school nutrition profession is the friendly, family feeling of the relationships that develop among coworkers, vendor partners and all those throughout the school community. But these close connections can be a source of ethical vulnerability, when lines become blurred between the professional and the personal. Meanwhile, we live in times where distrust of government authorities and suspicion about fraud and/or misuse of tax dollars is high. Plus, society has a ferocious appetite for scandalous stories in the news, while social media sharing makes it even easier to spin and spread negativity and rumor. Reputations can be permanently ruined, as we impatiently move on to the next story, without waiting for the slow, investigative process to reveal context or evidence that vindicates the accused. Over the last decade, there has been at least one national headline each year about a school nutrition administrator who has been suspended, fired and sometimes even prosecuted for behavior that is, at worst, illegal and, at best, unethical. And, of course, there are small-town incidents that don’t make national news and don’t involve top officials, but still are discussed—endlessly—throughout the community. School nutrition operators are hardly notorious for bad behavior—just the opposite! The numbers of actual incidents are very, very small among the nation’s thousands of districts and schools. Still, the impact of each one carries tremendous weight and the damage tarnishes the entire profession. Perception is reality. People are watching. Negative accusations endure. This is our world. That’s why SNA is introducing a new training course, “What Should You Do? Ethical Decision-Making in School Nutrition.” And that’s why this month’s School Nutrition magazine is focused on this complicated topic. School foodservice professionals—at all levels—simply can’t afford to plead ignorance, saying “I didn’t know any better.” In the pages that follow, you will find: • An overview of how we define ethics, both personally and professionally • Reflections about the value of ethics training from school nutrition professionals and allies who either contributed to the development of SNA’s new ethics training course or are serving on the SNA Procurement Ethics Task Force • Four sample exercises to read and discuss with your school nutrition team that demonstrate the wide array of ethical challenges that can be encountered every day, at all levels of this profession And when you’re finished reading this issue, head online to SN’s exclusive web extras (www.schoolnutrition.org/snmagazinebonus) for more resources that will help you and your staff address this complicated topic on a regular basis. Review common excuses for unethical behaviors and discuss our suggested responses. Gain practical advice for writing a code of ethics for your own operation and see a sample from one district. Take a deep breath and roll up your sleeves. This is challenging—but ultimately rewarding—work. Compiled by Toni Vega Aiken, SNA senior program manager; Christina Uticone, SN contributing editor; and Patricia Fitzgerald, SN editor.
Published by School Nutrition Association. View All Articles.
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