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CNIC 2013: Exploring All the Possibilities

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January 21, 2013 – School nutrition professionals may be asked to continually do more with less, but their spirit remains undiminished, as evidenced by the passion and energy exhibited in San Antonio in mid-January during SNA’s annual Child Nutrition Industry Conference (CNIC). Tighter budgets, new nutrition standards, aging equipment and a white-hot media spotlight—plus the usual array of daily frustrations—make school nutrition the single-most complex segment in foodservice. But for several days in San Antonio, Texas, 600+ operators and industry representatives demonstrated how they rise to meet every challenge: by working together. Truly, CNIC was a place “Where Partners Create Possibilities.”


Ross Shafer

Every aspect of CNIC 2013 was designed to motivate attendees to share their ideas, transformations and results. And with record-breaking attendance, participants showed up to make the most of the potential offered at this dynamic learning and networking event.

Author Ross Shafer kicked things off by encouraging a spirit of reinvention and relevance. Shafer urged the audience to take a fresh approach to change, transition and growth. “How do you innovate in a change environment?” he asked, suggesting an unexpected answer: “You change by UNDER-thinking.” After all, he noted, most of us are very familiar with over-thinking a problem or challenge. Under-thinking, he contends, allows us to “look at change in a different way.” The bottom line, he said in closing, is to remember that “rapport is your greatest ally, and that we can move nations if we can show an interest in people.”

Over the course of the four-day event, several lively panels took on a variety of hot topics in school nutrition. From exploring the opportunities found in today’s social media marketing approaches to examining the findings of new research from SNA and the Pew Charitable Trust, these sessions offered both provocative data and practical solutions.


CNIC 2013 featured a number of lively panel sessions with school nutrition leaders.

Less than a year has passed since the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released the first update to school meal nutrition standards in more than a decade. The first few months of implementation has meant both trial and triumph for operators and their industry partners. There were several formal and informal opportunities for attendees to discuss these and identify potential strategies and solutions. These included designated Industry Information Sessions, special networking breaks and a USDA-focused Networking luncheon. Indeed, opportunities for networking between operators and industry are a hallmark of CNIC. The popular Innovation Stations offered operators special advance previews of recently introduced or in-development products, services and solutions.

Dr. Janey Thornton, SNS, Deputy Under Secretary for Food and Nutrition Service, and an SNA past president, provided assurance and updates during Monday luncheon. She encouraged participants to continue to work together as other aspects of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 are implemented in the coming months. A dynamic “MyPlate Breakfast” carried on the theme of creating possibilities in response to change. The unique meal presentation was based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the MyPlate nutrition guidance.

Personal wellness also was a focus for this year’s CNIC agenda! Attendees were encouraged to join SNA President Sandra Ford, SNS, and “Step out for Better Health” on Sunday afternoon and Tuesday morning. Groups participated in brisk 2-mile walking tours of historic San Antonio. These wellness activities supported SNA’s new personal wellness initiative the STEPS Challenge program, sponsored by Jennie-O Turkey Store.


Jackie Freiberg

Closing Keynote Speaker Jackie Freiberg, an author and leadership expert, urged participants to take the energy generated throughout CNIC to find exciting and engaging ways to innovate and create possibilities. We all have to push through the white noise and creative positive disruptions, she insisted. Be “uncomfortable” and see the opportunities for change!”

For more CNIC 2013 coverage, visit SNA’s Facebook page or its coverage on Twitter (use the hashtag #CNIC13). Additional coverage will appear in the April issue of School Nutrition magazine.

Related Links

CNIC 2013 Presentations

Culinary Competition at CNIC


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