History-Making Moments at ANC 2014: Amy Purdy Speaks, Award Winners Announced and the Exhibit Hall Opens!

2014-07-14

With near record-breaking attendance numbers, school nutrition professionals from across the nation gathered on Sunday, July 13, in the Ballroom of the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center for the first of many history-making moments at SNA’s 68th Annual National Conference (ANC).

More than 6,500 members and participants have arrived in the “Cradle of Liberty” since early Saturday, when pre-conference education sessions began. Sunday afternoon marked the official start of the event with the Opening General Session. After a stirring rendition of the National Anthem from the Boston City Singers, a children’s choir, SNA President Leah Schmidt welcomed the Association’s Board of Directors, state presidents and State Agency directors.

Schmidt acknowledged the 2013-2014 President’s Award of Excellence recipients—Christopher Derico of West Virginia, Kristina Sandoval of Colorado and Lynnette Rock of California. The award recognizes outstanding state presidents whose leadership has led their states to the top in membership development and retention and professional development and included an innovative state initiative.

Thunderous applause could be heard throughout the ballroom when Schmidt announced that SNA membership grew by nearly 5%, which is its largest membership since 2001! As a celebration of this very significant milestone, SNA’s Member Services Committee (also known as “The Recruiters’), delighted the audience with the song “Sweet SNA,” sung to the tune of “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond.

After welcome remarks from Congressman Jim McGovern, one of the leading voices in Congress working to protect school meals, Schmidt and SNA’s CEO Patricia Montague provided a recap of some of the Association’s highlights and milestones, including the strategic realignment project and the crucial advocacy efforts as SNA and members urge Congress to protect school meal programs as part of Child Nutrition Reauthorization 2015.

After an informative update from Schmidt and Montague about the state of the Association, they announced the grand-prize winner of the 2013-14 Membership Campaign, Debra Boston from Weld County, Colorado, and acknowledged the winners of the regional and national Louise Sublette Award of Excellence in School Nutrition. Then, it was the moment everyone was waiting for—the introduction of keynote speaker Amy Purdy.

A world-class adaptive snowboarder, actress/model and motivational speaker, Purdy lost both her legs below the knee at age 19. After going through this life-altering experience, she challenged herself to move on with her life and attain goals that even those who have both legs struggle to achieve. Today, she is one of the top ranked adaptive snowboarders in the world and was recently the runner-up on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.”

Purdy detailed how her creativity, positive outlook and never give up attitude opened doors she would never have imagined. Attendees were able to text message questions during her speech. Clearly inspired by her story, audience members inquired about her proudest moment on “Dancing with the Stars” ("Making it through the first show after coming back from the Olympics in Russia"), her favorite vegetable ("Beets prepared with goat cheese and pistachios") and where she keeps her Olympic Bronze medal ("In my purse!")

“Obstacles can do one of two things," Purdy reflected. "Stop us in our tracks, or force us to get creative.”

Additionally, the ANC Exhibit Hall opens for business today. It’s the largest exhibit hall in the school nutrition industry—and this year it’s even bigger than ever, featuring more than 880 booths. Plus, it boasts some can’t-miss special events, such as Culinary Demonstrations and Wellness Village.

Once the doors opened, the excitement level was at an all-time high as attendees checked out the latest food and beverage items on the market, plus supply, equipment and service solutions, software/hardware technology and nutrition education resources. And everyone enjoyed sampling a wide variety of foods and beverages on display, including whole-grain products, lowfat and low-sodium items, fruits and vegetables, nutritious snacks and much more.

Sunday’s education schedule included the hot topic sessions “Don’t Get Salty: How to Reduce Sodium in Your Menus” and “Energizing Your Students with School Breakfast and Lunch.” While Monday’s hot topic session entitled “Professional Standards are Coming: Are You Ready?” detailed the provisions of Section 306 of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (the establishment of professional standards for foodservice).

Are you a fan? Do you tweet? Join in on the conference-related conversations happening now on SNA’s Facebook page and @SchoolLunch on Twitter. You can also add hashtag #ANC14 to your own tweets to have your tweet show up in the conference Twitter stream.

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