Mile High City Hosts School Nutrition Associations’ 66th Annual Conference
Thousands of school nutrition professionals packed the Colorado Convention Center in Denver July 14th-18th 2012 to attend the School Nutrition Association’s annual conference. There was plenty to do at this conference; from educational sessions on the new meal patterns, Chef’s Move to Schools and USDA Foods to the large exhibit hall filled with hundreds of booths of tasty new products for school districts to try, a Wellness Village where you could enjoy a free chair massage to rejuvenate you and let’s not forget the opportunity to have your picture taken with The Avengers. The conference was a helpful resource for many as school professionals scramble to implement new meal pattern regulations for school year 2013 set forth by USDA.
The conference kicked off with general sessions including Denise Austin, who came to prove to us YOU CAN DO IT, White House Chef Sam Kass and food advocate Phil Lempert speaking about the “Chopped” show featuring four outstanding school nutrition staff who take school lunch above and beyond and lastly, the first female “Biggest Loser” Ali Vincent who proved to us all if you dedicate yourself to achieving your goals, you will indeed succeed. Many of the educational sessions were geared towards helping to implement new guidelines that are required for schools participating in the National School Lunch Program beginning July 1, 2012 in school districts all around the country.
Many walked away with a better understanding of these regulations which include increased fruits and vegetables, more whole grains and lower calories and sodium. This was a time for us all to have a chance to really network and share ideas of how to not only implement these regulations but how to communicate them to administration, teachers, parents and most importantly, students. Chef’s Move to School was also another hot topic of interest at the conference, providing information on how it works, how chefs and schools can get involved and what roles chefs and school nutrition professionals play to make the program successful. More Information on these and other educational sessions can be found at http://www.schoolnutrition.org/Level2_ANC2012.aspx?id=17441.
As a first timer to this conference, I was in a state of shock at all of the information available to you. So I leave these few tips for next years’ conference. Come with a game plan. Map out the educational sessions that are a priority to you. I found that creating a “map” was extremely helpful for the rest of the conference. Using the provided agenda can help you create your own journey through this exciting conference. You will want to break up the exhibit hall into the entire three days. There is a lot of stuff to try, a lot of information to get and of course fun contests and photo opportunities that you don’t want to miss out on. Bring an extra suitcase. You definitely come home with more than you went with. Lastly, have fun. After all, we can’t be serious every second of the day. If you haven’t attended this conference and you are a school nutrition professional, it’s highly encouraged you attend. It’s a great way to network and walk away with some amazing information. Hope to see you in 2013 in Kansas City!