Mark Ward 0000-00-00 00:00:00
<b>Two award winning state presidents bring a lifelong interest in nutrition to their careers</b>. <b>Meet Janice King</b> <b>The many letters behind Janice King’s name—RD, LDN, CDE, SNS</b>—neatly capture the turnings of her professional life. She’s been a hospital nutrition director, college foodservice director, medical nutritionist, certified diabetes educator and, since 2004, the nutrition director for Quaboag Regional School District in Warren, Mass. This year, King added a new line on her résumé by winning a 2011 SNA President’s Award of Excellence for her work in 2010-11 as president of the School Nutrition Association of Massachusetts (SNAM). Honored in the category for state associations with 501 to 1,000 members, much of her success can be credited to the sheer breadth of her career experiences. <b>Principles and Passion</b> “I’ve found that you need a foundational principle that ties everything together, whether it’s your career or your association,” King asserts. Her term as SNAM president was centered “on the basic principle of giving our members more training and more access to professional opportunities.” King is especially pleased that during her year leading the state affiliate, the number of members with SNA Level 1 Certification increased by 50%. “To achieve that success,” she states, “we started with our guiding principle—more training and opportunity access—and then, as an association board and leadership team, asked ourselves: ‘What would feed into that principle and make it a reality?’” One strategy was to create more regional training opportunities, rather than only state conference sessions. But what if members don’t take advantage of such expanded opportunities? King and the other SNAM leaders recognize the challenge of “fostering a culture where members actively build their careers and then connecting career development with helping kids,” she notes. King also applied leadership lessons learned from her diverse background with a variety of nutrition-related organizations. For example, “Collective effort makes work more enjoyable,” she explains, “but that depends on getting people involved. How do you do that? I’ve learned that people are leery about the word ‘committee,’ because it makes their obligation seem open-ended.” Thus, King emphasized getting members involved in SNAM on a “project-by-project” basis. Dividing up tasks into doable chunks that have a beginning and an end is a tried-and true method of volunteer management. But involving members in projects, King relates, “requires you to make sure there are enough projects to go around, then to evaluate individual members’ strengths and finally to approach people and ask them to get involved.” For example, King may ask a member known for creative baking to share some recipes and help SNAM roll out a training session about putting more whole grains into tasty baked goods. The personal value that King places on professional training and networking is suggested by her memories of her first day on the job in 2004 at Quaboag Regional School District. “I made two phone calls,” she recounts, “to SNAM and to our state education department.” <b>Path to Success</b> The journey that brought King to Quaboag was launched years earlier on the Indiana farm where her parents supplied a nascent organic foods market. That sparked in King an interest that led to a Purdue University degree in nutrition and food management, a dietetic internship in Boston at Massachusetts General Hospital and then a new life in the Bay State, where she has crafted a varied career in health and nutrition. King’s work as a diabetes educator brought her face to face with the challenge of childhood obesity. So, when Quaboag advertised for a school nutrition director, she was intrigued and applied. Since, she has turned around her program’s finances, boosted participation by 40%, increased the number of SNA-certified staff by 50%, secured $175,000 in federal and state grants, established an effective school breakfast program, launched a farm-to school initiative and integrated vegetarian and organic foods into school menus. “I’m glad my career has put me in the right place at the right time,” King declares. “There’s more public focus than ever on school nutrition, which means there’s also more opportunity than ever.” <b>Meet Ginger Gray Ginger Gray’s hero is her mother Betty,</b> whose example played a significant role in her daughter’s achievements, including the 2011 SNA President’s Award of Excellence in the category of state associations with more than 1,000 members. “My mom is 84 and still an inspiration,” says Gray, SNS, who is foodservice director for Kenton County Public Schools in Fort Wright, Ky. “She was planning to be a dietitian until she got married, and I had the same interest from the first day that I started college.” <b>The Time Is Right</b> Exactly 30 years after her mother took a freshman class in dietetics, Gray earned her master’s degree from the University of Kentucky. In 1988, after a decade working with the University’s extension service, she landed her present position in school nutrition. And 20 years later, in 2008, Gray was asked to put her name on the ballot for the annual election of the Kentucky School Nutrition Association (KSNA). Despite her rich background in the field of nutrition, the thought of being an association leader on a path to become KSNA president gave her pause. “You see people who serve as state president, and they do such a great job. You don’t think of yourself as being in their league.” But Gray let her name stand and was elected vice president. Circumstances compelled her to skip her year as president elect and move into the top position a year early and serve the 2010-11 term. As it turned out, she was the right person at the right time. When the Kentucky House of Representatives passed—with unexpected speed—a bill that stripped local districts of the authority to decide the length of time students could charge school meals, Gray and KSNA found themselves scrambling to stop the proposal’s momentum in the state Senate. “The House bill would allow students to charge meals indefinitely,” she explains, “and its unanimous vote was a lesson in how fast a bill can fl y through the legislature.” Faced with the need for an instant response, the KSNA leadership team organized an e-mail canvass that went to every member of the state’s Senate Education Committee. “We had to educate them about the issue and, more broadly, about the challenges of school nutrition and need for local flexibility,” Gray reports. KSNA’s efforts were rewarded: The bill was tabled, effectively squashing it for the legislative session. <b>Lead and Grow</b> Reflecting on her award-winning term as KSNA president, Gray says the experience also afforded solid results for her own professional development. “Involvement takes time,” she relates, “but you get to learn from so many people, and that helps you stay on the cutting edge.” Gray credits much of her success to the support she received from her staff, managers and superintendent. “You’ve got to have buy-in from your district to be a state association president,” she advises. Their support is, in its way, a testament to the district-wide respect for school meals that Gray has cultivated in her 24 years with Kenton County Public Schools. “When I first took the job,” she recalls, “I’d had no exposure at all to school foodservice. Over-staffing was our biggest problem, and it’s hard for a new director to come in and make cuts. Also, each of 21 schools at the time decided their own menus. So, I changed ‘the way things had always been done.’” At first, Gray was frustrated, because she could not understand why her staff did not understand the necessity of her decisions. “But then I learned to empathize and put myself in others’ shoes,” she remembers. “That attitude helped later when our state restricted a la carte sales. Initially, I was worried about the income my program would lose. Then I realized, ‘Wait a minute! Even I wouldn’t eat that way. So why give it to our students?’” Like her mother, Gray is still going strong. Her hobbies include a daily swim, rock climbing and mountaineering. At the top of her bucket list is an ascent of Alaska’s Mount Denali; she also wants to make base camp at Mount Everest. Yet even more important to her is a career “for which I have no regrets, because it’s always stretched me to be creative and let me impact a lot of people.” <b>Mark Ward</b> is a freelance writer in Victoria, Texas. <b>Current Title: </b> Director of Foodservice <b>City, State: </b> Fort Wright, Ky. <b>Full Name: </b> Mary Virginia <b>Favorite School Food as a Kid: </b> Pizza <b>Bedside Book/ Magazine: </b> <i>The Confession</i> by John Grisham <b>Dream Dinner Guest: </b> Abraham Lincoln <b>Favorite Subject in School: </b> Math
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