July 15, 2013 – The enthusiasm overflowed Sunday, July 14, in the Grand Ballroom of the Kansas City Convention Center in Kansas City, Mo., as attendees of SNA’s 67th Annual National Conference (ANC) couldn’t contain their jubilation and applause at the start of the Opening General Session.
Although members and participants had been trickling into the Convention Center since early Saturday when pre-conference education sessions began, Sunday afternoon marked the official start of the event. Members and exhibitors turned out in full force – numbering nearly 6,000 – pouring into the expansive ballroom. After a harmonious rendition of the National Anthem, sung by local music-makers 4’s Company Quartet, SNA President Sandra Ford and CEO Patricia Montague welcomed the Association’s Board of Directors and state presidents onto the stage. Ford acknowledged three presidents whose leaderships have pushed their states to the top in membership development and retention and professional development and included an innovative, impactful state initiative: Jeanne Pierce of New Hampshire, Jane McLucas of Massachusetts and Cindy Cooper of Tennessee.
In a moment of fun, the Member Services Committee hit the stage to regale the audience with “a very creative approach to promoting what it means to be an SNA member – with a song!” Ford said. The group’s song, set to The Turtles’ 1967 “Happy Together,” detailed the benefits of joining the Association.
After an informative update from Ford and Montague about the state of the Association, announcing the grand-prize winner of the 2012-13 Membership Campaign – Janet Bowling from Murfreesboro School District in Tennessee – and acknowledging the winners of the regional and national Louise Sublette Award of Excellence in School Nutrition, it was the moment everyone was waiting for – the introduction of keynote speaker Al Roker.
Roker, the co-host and weatherman for NBC’s “Today” show, spent some time in front of the SNA membership reflecting on his childhood and the food he ate. “I would set my alarm early to get up for breakfast,” he said. “But the fact is … a lot [of kids] actually don’t have time for breakfast.” He reiterated the importance of eating the morning meal on a child’s academic performance, behavior and future. “You folks are on the front line,” he said.
New this year, ANC attendees were able to text message questions during Roker’s speech, which Ford then read to him. Questions ranged from his (and his kids’) thoughts on school lunch (for the record, his teenage daughter enjoys it, Roker says) to his efforts in weight loss and training for a marathon. One early question: “What is your biggest food temptation?” Everything, Roker replied.
While Roker’s time on stage was full of humor and laughter, he wrapped up his speech with an important message to SNA and its members: “You have the ability to change kids’ lives,” he said. “I, for one, thank you. This country owes you a giant debt of gratitude.”
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 #ANC13 to your own tweets to have your tweet show up in the conference Twitter stream.
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