Mark Ward 0000-00-00 00:00:00
Meet Mary Ann McCann School Nutrition Director Mary Ann McCann of Taos (N.M.) Municipal Schools is “really proud that our district was among the first, back in the mid-1990s, to adopt a universal breakfast program.” But instead of seeing her job as done, McCann viewed her experience as a springboard to advocate for expanded school breakfast programs statewide. In 2004, for example, McCann and other members of the New Mexico School Nutrition Association (NMSNA) joined with other advocacy groups in successfully supporting state legislation to boost school breakfast funding. The law required that breakfast be served at no cost to elementary students in schools that failed to meet Adequate Yearly Progress standards. As a result, New Mexico soon jumped to the top of the Food Research And Action Center’s annual state rankings for school breakfast participation—all for an initial investment of less than half-a-million dollars. Pushing further, NMSNA joined other allies to form the Provision 2 Task Force, which recently helped secure passage of a “Breakfast After the Bell” law that is already being cited as a national model. By permitting students to eat breakfast during instructional time, explains McCann, “Kids who can’t get to the cafeteria before school can now eat breakfast while teachers take attendance, collect papers, read aloud, hand out worksheets or begin a lesson. With breakfast available to more needy children, schools can receive more federal reimbursements to sustain a breakfast program.” Making It Happen Though the “Breakfast After the Bell” legislation made real sense, NMSNA and the Provision 2 Task Force faced a tall task in securing its passage. New Mexico state legislators serve without salary and are in session only 60 days a year. “To get a bill written, through committee and voted on in two chambers During that time frame required two things: We had to be prepared before the session started, and then we had to hit the ground running,” recounts McCann. A sponsor was needed to write and introduce the bill. NMSNA member Demetrious Giovas, SNS, nutrition director for the Gadsden Independent School District, approached his local senator. “Demetrious was a pioneer for Provision 2 in New Mexico,” credits McCann, “and because Sen. Cynthia Nava had experienced the positive impact firsthand, she’s been a tireless advocate for school nutrition.” [Editors’ Note: See “In Profile,” April 2005, for more about Giovas.] After Nava secured unanimous approval for the proposal (Senate Bill 144) from her fellow state senators, the Provision 2 Task Force swung into action and pressed New Mexico House members for similar support.(More details about this effort are featured in the accompanying profile of Corrine Lovato.)The legislation was passed in March 2011, just before the end of the session, and Governor Susana Martinez signed it into law. Southwest Success With the success of McCann’s own program in Taos (see “Small Wonders,” September 2011), it’s not surprising that she felt compelled to champion efforts on a larger scale. That’s right in character for someone with lifelong Ties to New Mexico and to public education.Raised near Albuquerque, McCann earned a 1972 degree in home economics from New Mexico State University and became a teacher like her parents, until taking time off in the 1980s to raise a family. In 1990, when McCann answered the advertisement for her current position in Taos, “I had no clue about school foodservice!” But she proved a quick study and was encouraged to participate in the state association. More than 20 years later, McCann remains active, currently serving as co-chair of NMSNA’s Legislative Committee.McCann also recently completed her two-year term as West regional director on SNA’s national Board of Directors. “As a newcomer in my job,” McCann recalls, “I [tried to push for] changes without getting people involved. I learned that you can’t dictate change, but must get others involved—a lesson that, in cases like our success with Breakfast After the Bell, continues to pay dividends.” Meet Corrine Lovato Legislative advocates in less-populous states tend to enjoy a built-in advantage for nurturing their respective causes. “In New Mexico, people know each other,” points out Corrine Lovato, SNS, a former school nutrition director and state agency head whose School Nutrition Solutions consultancy is based in Santa Fe.“In small states, you can get to know your legislators on a first-name basis, even go to their homes.” That fact was crucial last year when the New Mexico School Nutrition Association (NMSNA) joined with likeminded advocacy groups to win passage of a first-in-the-nation “Breakfast After the Bell” state law that permits breakfast to be served during instructional time (see further details in the accompanying profile of Mary Ann McCann).But while larger states might struggle with political and bureaucratic inertia, NMSNA faced a very different challenge in pushing the “Breakfast After the Bell” proposal.State legislators serve on a voluntary basis, and their annual session lasts only 60 days.“So, even though we know our local representatives,” Lovato explains, “we needed to have a focused strategy in place once the session started.” Fast Focus In 2009, NMSNA joined with the hunger advocacy group New Mexico Appleseed and with the New Mexico Food and Agriculture Policy Council to form the Provision 2 Task Force. Prior to the 2011 legislative session, Task Force members formulated their “Breakfast After the Bell” proposal and secured a senate sponsor for The legislation. While the senator’s staff wrote the proposed legislation, the Provision 2 Task Force composed briefing sheets with talking points to help individual organization members speak to their representatives.Leading the charge for NMSNA were Legislative Committee co-chairs Lovato and Mary Ann McCann, working together with the respective directors of Appleseed and the Food and Agriculture Policy Council. “We used phone and e-mail to mobilize our members and commit them to talking with their legislators,” reports Lovato. “The briefing sheets were a key to our success.You need something in writing that keeps everyone on message. Also, through NMSNA and the Provision 2 Task Force, we could advocate as private citizens and encourage parents and kids to support the bill.” Lovato concedes the approach was “informal,” but it achieved the desired results. After the legislative session opened in mid-January, the breakfast bill won approval by both chambers of the New Mexico Legislature by March. “The main lesson we learned about state-level advocacy,” Lovato relates, “is that our representatives live with us in our communities, and we shouldn’t be afraid to speak to them.” A Natural Progression Growing up in a small New Mexico community, Lovato lived on a ranch and helped her mother earn extra money with a homebased health food business. She studied dietetics at the University of New Mexico, and went on to coordinate hospitality education programs for a regional vocational- technical institute. In 1979, she joined the State Education Department’s Student Nutrition Bureau as a food program specialist. Lovato was appointed Bureau director in 1995 and served in that capacity until 2006. After nearly 30 years state service, she stepped down and moved into operations, as nutrition director for Pecos (N.M.) Independent Schools, while also establishing herself as a consultant. Last year, Lovato took her consulting business full-time, and now advises districts on a wide variety of school nutrition topics, such as “techniques to improve the effectiveness of their operations, like using direct certification and computerizing student application for free and reduced-price meal eligibility,” she says. An SNA member for more than 25 years, Lovato has served on the national level as West regional director on SNA’s Board of Directors and on the state level as NMSNA president, regional chair and committee chair. “School nutrition is in my blood!” she exclaims. That her enthusiasm remains undimmed is affirmed by Lovato’s advice to other state-level advocates. “Once you raise awareness about school nutrition and have some legislative success,” she observes, “the next step is to keep the ball rolling and push for the next item on your agenda.”
Published by School Nutrition Association. View All Articles.
This page can be found at http://mydigimag.rrd.com/article/In+Profile/963341/98952/article.html.