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News & Action Items: SNA National

What Did You Do This Summer?

Wednesday, August 30, 2017   (0 Comments)

Karleen Sayman
Nutrition Site Coordinator
Reading Public Schools

September will soon be here, and we’ll be returning to our kitchens. The one question I will hear again and again as each co-worker arrives is "What did you do this summer?" Along with all of my family activities which included a family vacation, camping, swim meets, and many outdoor movie nights, I had the opportunity to attend my first SNA National Conference.  It was held in July in Atlanta, GA.

I was fortunate to be able to attend with a good friend and co-worker who just happens to be the Northeast Regional Manager of the Year. I attended the awards ceremony which was a nice way to show appreciation for a job which doesn’t always get the recognition it deserves. I know each and every one of these ladies puts a lot of heart and effort into their jobs throughout the school year.  This truly highlights the great achievements of each winner. There was a feeling of great pride for the winners as the audience watched their co-workers walk across the stage to receive their certificates.  

We attended many educational sessions. Some inspired us with ideas for next year.  Some were motivational speeches to keep us going. During one session, a cafeteria manager from a small town got up to speak to the 100+ that attended her session. I could really see the pride she had for her kitchen as she spoke of the changes made in her district throughout her time there. She told us the ideas that her and her staff had done to create a fun place for her students to come and have lunch. She was so excited to share the ideas that worked for her kitchen and was hopeful that it would work for our kitchens as well.

There were two key note sessions this year which were awesome. We heard from Mr. Sonny Perdue, the US Secretary of Agriculture. He assured us that he hears what people are saying about school lunch, and he would like to make sure we can make food that is not only nutritious but also tastes good. We also heard astronauts Scott and Mark Kelly tell of their days in the military and their days at NASA. They talked of teamwork and leadership. I was also lucky enough to see Alex Sheen, founder of the movement “Because I said I would.” He inspired us all to try to go out and make the world a better place. Believe me when I tell you, there was not a dry eye in the 7000+ audience.  

The highlight of the conference for me was the food show. We saw new technology that is available to help us in the kitchen. From thermometers that will automatically record food temperatures for you, to industrial microwaves that will "steam" cook your food in record time. There were so many food vendors that it was hard to remember where you had been and where you were going. My favorite new food item is the watermelon flavored cranberries.

It was not all work however. I think the nicest part of the trip was spending time with co-workers outside the workplace and meeting many new people. I believe we all took home memories that will stay with us forever. Whether it was just sharing a bottle a Diet Coke during the first day’s lunch break, or riding in a horse drawn carriage after dinner. We also attended evening activities, sponsored by the vendors. We all had fun at the College Football Hall of Fame (Go BC Eagles). I got to challenge everyone at skee-ball and video games at a bakery sponsored evening of fun at the hotel. We even went to an 80's night with a live band and dancing.  Some of the ladies went all out and dressed for the occasion.  We had Madonna lookalikes with tulle skirts and fish net gloves, and there was even a group that dressed like the Robert Palmer guitar girls. We ended the conference with a performance from the Bare Naked Ladies. I would have to say I am now a big fan of theirs.  I don't think we were expected to take anything from this concert except a good time.  But this band truly loves what they do and I would love to be able to bring some of their exuberance and fun into my job every day.

I met many Directors, Cafeteria Managers and Kitchen Workers, all of whom are very passionate about what they do. They all will put in the extra effort when it is the right thing to do for the kids.  I will have a lot to talk about when I get back from summer vacation. I hope the planning for next year’s conference is already under way, because you have big shoes to fill.  Thanks for all the great ideas and memories.

Check out photos from the ANC here!


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