How the Power of Networking at ANC Keeps Members Coming Back Each Year

2017-05-24

SNA's 2017 Annual National Conference (ANC)

The following is the twelfth in a series of news stories exploring the exciting opportunities and events at ANC.

When Cincy Jensen, M.S., RD, CD, director of School Nutrition at School District of New Berlin in Wisconsin, was working on a concept to put a coffee café in her schools, she was not sure exactly where to turn. However, the networking she did with other directors at SNA’s Annual National Conference (ANC) gave her the answers that she was looking for.

“We wanted to transform our libraries into a student commons/media center where the students could have a cup of coffee and study but we did not know exactly how to do it,” remembers Jensen. “While at ANC, I was able to connect with other directors that had created something similar up and running. They were able to tell me how they did it, and what worked and what didn’t work.

“One of the directors that I talked with recommended that I get in touch with the representative of Multiteria, a furniture vendor in the Exhibit Hall, who helped with my project. It was really cool, not only did they end up building and installing our counters, but they were located in Wisconsin.”

As Jensen found out, networking at ANC is powerful tool.

“How important is networking to me at ANC, very,” explained Jensen. “School districts are run so differently from each other in various parts of the country. Finding out what’s happening in other parts of the country is always interesting.

“But, I would not have been able to know how to get our coffee cafés up and running, if I hadn’t been networking with people at ANC.”

JoAnne Robinett, MSA, SNS, a former district director and current owner of America’s Meal, which provides school nutrition training and consulting services, says one reason networking is so prevalent and successful with foodservice professionals at ANC is lack of competition.

“In school foodservice, people are happy to help others if they have the opportunity,” says Robinett, who will be providing three Education Sessions at ANC in Atlanta. “This is one occupation where people don’t feel threatened if somebody is better or more successful than you. In foodservice, we all can be the best! Your district’s success is not going to put my district meal program out of business. I believe that is why networking works so well at ANC, where inspiration might come from a district 1,000 miles from yours – that at one point had the same problem you are trying to work through.

“But, I think my networking started because I was willing to help to somebody out and I cannot tell you how many times that has come back to me.”

Exactly why Michelle Coker MA, RD, LD, SNS, director of Child Nutrition at Fayette County Public Schools in Lexington, Kentucky and so many other directors find the networking opportunities at ANC so invaluable – the give and take of providing and sharing information.

“I think a big aspect of going to ANC is making those networking connections and talking advantage the opportunity to know there are other directors out there in the same situation that you are in,” says Coker. “Maybe they are going through what you are going through and they can be of support or they provide some information on how to do things better or different to make your program more successful. Or maybe, I can help other directors.”

As a director with 61 school sites and a staff of over 400 employees, Coker tends to network with other directors in district of equal size.

“Every year we go to ANC, we bring back something and implement it into our program,” notes Coker. “And to me, that is just one of the many wonderful attributes of networking. Out of a simple conversation can come the smallest nugget that you can learn from somebody, which can make a big difference in our program. It is all about feeding our kids and making sure that happens in the most efficient way you can.”

Register for ANC 2017:

Sound interesting? The Regular Rate registration deadline is June 12! For a complete schedule, special event and general session information, hotel and travel information, Exhibit Hall information and more, visit www.schoolnutrition.org/anc or watch the ANC video.

As supervisor at North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale School District 622, in Minnesota, Paula Pohlkamp found another aspect of networking which is very beneficial to her program, is establishing relationships with manufacturing reps in the Exhibit Hall.

“It is very adventitious,” says Pohlkamp. “Because, you get to know them, you get to know their products and then, they send you product information. They may follow up and visit your district and while they are here; sometimes they will do training at [state] chapter meetings. Networking with vendors is another avenue where you can create a real favorable circumstance for your program.”

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