The School Nutrition Event of the Year

Disclosure: I am a consultant to the Corn Refiners Association and attended the SNA conference on their behalf. All opinions, however, are my own. 

The “School Nutrition Event of the Year,” the School Nutrition Association (SNA) Annual National Conference (ANC) was held over this past summer in Kansas City. It included an impressive list of events attracting about 6,500 attendees.

The conference is a great opportunity for school nutrition professionals from all levels to share ideas, network and learn about new school meal regulations, products and technologies. The four education tracks (operations, nutrition, administration and communications & marketing) held nutrition education sessions for everyone. Some of the hot topics covered in these sessions included managing food allergies in school, meeting school breakfast requirements, leadership and motivational techniques and making a video to promote the school lunch program. Many best practices for new USDA regulations were shared as well. One of my favorite sessions was the Chef from an Austin, Texas school district who spoke passionately about what he does and how he creatively meets the new school lunch requirements. He uses Thai and Indian flavors, which he predicts is the next new rage, to entice his students.

The exhibit hall featured culinary demonstrations and a cutting-edge complex for a look at the latest technology to help run school nutrition programs. Food manufacturers, big and small, were well-represented, showing off the latest food offerings to help meet USDA requirements. Whole grains and creative ways for serving fruits and vegetables definitely dominated the expo floor. On that note, during a TV interview, a colleague of mine recently shared some helpful tips and meal ideas for kids to start the new school year. Many school nutrition professionals were interested in the difference between nutritive and non-nutritive sweeteners, but the amount of sugar is more important than the type of sugar used in school food products.

After attending SNA ANC, I can attest it really is the School Nutrition Event of the Year. I met individuals from all levels within school systems and industry who enjoyed the opportunity to network, learn what is happening in other parts of the country and see new nutritional technologies. The Kansas City Star created the great video above for a sneak peek into the conference. The association really pulls out all the stops in putting together a quality conference. Next year the School Nutrition Association Annual National Conference will be in Boston and certainly should not be missed for those involved with school nutrition.