July 17, 2012 – Earlier today at SNA’s 2012 Annual National Conference (ANC) in Denver, basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal welcomed attendees by video at the Second General Session. O’Neal commended attendees for their hard work and for finding innovative ways to create healthier meals for kids. He also urged everyone to be healthy role models for children by exercising and eating right.
Next, featured keynote speakers, Sam Kass, White House assistant chef and senior policy advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives, and Phil Lempert, food advocate and media personality, who together discussed how initiatives like the First Lady’s Let’s Move! and Chefs Move to Schools campaign are helping to open eyes to the innovations and opportunities in school meal programs across the country.
They also discussed Kass’ experiences as a guest judge on the episode “Class Acts” of The Food Network’s Chopped television program, a cooking show that emphasizes skill, speed and ingenuity. The audience was shown several clips from the emotional episode that featured four school nutrition professionals and which Kass described as “an amazing moment” and a really powerful moment for him personally.
"In my mind, you guys are heroes. You are truly heroes and you're serving this country and you're serving our kids," said Kass.
Before anyone knew what was happening, Lempert introduced three of the four contestants from the episode— Rhonda DeLoatch, head chef and foodservice director, Common Ground Environmental Charter High School, New Haven, Conn.; Dianne Houlihan, then assistant cook/manager at Great Neck Elementary, Waterford, Conn.; and Arlene Leggio, cook/manager at Islip High School, Long Island, N.Y.
Upon seeing the contestants, the room erupted with applause for the “cafeteria wonder women,” who participated in what School Nutrition recently described as “the single-most positive and inspiring portrayal of school nutrition professionals ever to be broadcast on television.”
It took several minutes for things to calm down, and then Lempert and Kass chatted with the ladies about their experiences on the show, inquiring what would they do differently and would they participate in the program again.
It was obvious by the audience’s reaction that they were inspired and affected, giving everyone an overwhelming sense of renewed pride for the important work they do every day.
"Every day you make a difference. Just be proud of what you do and keep on doing it. Just keep fighting the battle. And just keep loving it the way I do and all our kids will be so grateful," said Dianne Houlihan.
Attendees will have the chance to meet and have their picture taken with the Chopped contestants Rhonda DeLoatch, Dianne Houlihan and Arlene Leggio at the Culinary Demonstration given by McCormick For Chefs on Wednesday, July 18, from 10:30-11:15 am.
Prior to Tuesday’s general session, ANC attendees enjoyed a productive day of professional development, with education sessions on everything from “Choose MyPlate for School Nutrition” and “Avoiding a Showdown: Successfully Working With Your Inspector,” to “Take Your Career to the Next Level with SNA Certification” and “Get the Word Out: Communicating During Food Recalls.”
Can’t get enough ANC excitement? Join SNA on Facebook and @SchoolLunch on Twitter to be part of the conference buzz—or simply add hashtag #ANC12 to your tweets and be part of the conference Twitter stream. Also, check out conference photos on Flickr at www.flickr.com/schoolnutrition.
July 16, 2012 – On Sunday afternoon, attendees of SNA’s Annual National Conference (ANC) were surprised and delighted by a video featuring former President Bill Clinton. In his address, Clinton expressed gratitude for all school nutrition professionals do for the health of the nation’s children.
He also discussed the work of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation in partnership with more than 14,000 schools and 100+ companies, “to shift the culture of how American’s think about food and exercise and make healthier options available in our schools and our communities.”
After such an exciting and energizing start to the conference, energy continued to be the buzz-word for the afternoon, as America’s favorite fitness expert, Denise Austin, asked participants to stand up and stretch for one minute. And as everyone participated in this impromptu activity, many remarked that it was the perfect way to end a very productive and eventful day at ANC.
Austin has promoted health and fitness for over 25 years, and currently appears each morning on Lifetime’s “The Balancing Act.” Known for her spunky, high-energy spirit she had the audience mesmerized as she discussed the importance of being the example of healthy living.
“You get to choose if you want to be healthy, happy. It's your choice—and you decide if you want to have a positive attitude,” said Austin.
Earlier in the day, many conference goers took the opportunity to attend the first education session on the hot topic on everyone’s mind – the new meal pattern. Entitled, “We Can Do This: Advice and Resources for Meeting the New Meal Pattern” it is being presented by SNA’s Ad Hoc Meal Pattern Working Group, consisting of school nutrition operators, state agency officials, industry and USDA representatives, and will be repeated throughout the conference.
This session provides a companion guide with sample menus, resources and other valuable tools needed to interpret and implement the new meal pattern regulations. And now the guide is also available online, exclusively for SNA members.
Some of the other nineteen education sessions held on Sunday included “USDA Foods 101,” “Earning and Keeping Your 6 Cents” and “Marketing Is Not Rocket Science!”
Always one of the highlights of ANC, this morning thousands of excited school nutrition professionals crowded the entry way to the Exhibit Hall as SNA President Helen Phillips, SNS, performed the ceremonial ribbon cutting.
The ANC Exhibit Hall is the largest exhibit hall in the school nutrition industry—and this year it’s even bigger than ever, featuring more than 840 booths. Plus, the Exhibit Hall boasts some can’t-miss special events like the Culinary and Cutting-Edge Complex Demonstrations and the 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, lowfat dairy foods, nutritious snacks and much more.
Are you a fan? Do you tweet? Well, join in on the conference-related conversations happening now on SNA’s Facebook page and @SchoolLunch on Twitter. You can also add hashtag #ANC12 to your own tweets to have your tweet show up in the conference Twitter stream. Also, be sure to check out all the conference moments captured in photos on Flickr, www.flickr.com/schoolnutrition.
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