Even with Years of Professional Experience, a Registered Dietitian Finds Value in Earning an SNS


SNA School Nutrition Specialist (SNS) Karen Olsen

What Karen Olsen Gained From Earning Her SNS Credential:

  • Demonstrates her continued commitment to school food nutrition and children she serves
  • Improved credibility with school district officials and parents by reinforcing the school nutrition expert
  • Enhances her expertise of the fundamentals of food and school nutrition service operations
  • Pride in her work

The following is the first in a series of news stories highlighting SNA’s School Nutrition Specialist (SNS) Credentialing Program.

There is an old proverb that goes, “experience is the best teacher.” But for many seasoned foodservice professionals like Karen Olsen, RDN, LD, SNS, years of experience alone is not enough knowledge to allow her to flourish at her job. A registered dietitian employed in the Harford County Public Schools Department of Food and Nutrition Services, in Forest Hill, Maryland, nobody had to convince Olsen why she should earn a School Nutrition Specialist (SNS) Credential from SNA.

“When my supervisor of Food and Nutrition [Gary Childress] first came to the county 10 years ago, he encouraged all the area specialists on staff to take the SNS exam,” recalled Olsen. “I didn’t even need to think about it. After already earning a RDN and LD after my name, I knew I needed to do this because an SNS shows a specific expertise in school nutrition, which immediately shows people a certain level of school specific knowledge.”

Olsen explained, “Earning an SNS reinforced my belief that people who are school nutrition professionals are often underestimated by outsiders. We need to have such a broad base of knowledge because we are not simply throwing a meal together; it’s much more complicated than that. There is a lot of information to comprehend or at least have a working knowledge of, to make the right decisions. That just reinforced the idea to me, just how talented school nutrition professionals need to be.”

Beyond her years working as a registered dietitian in a long-term care, as a consultant and in public school foodservice, Olsen found earning the SNS allowed her to speak to principals, teachers, foodservice staff and parents on a level playing field and eliminate the, “do you understand this” part of the conversation.

“With the SNS Credential, you immediately jump to a specific level of credibility,” said Olsen. “If I start talking to a parent whose child had a food allergy about challenge diets or I start talking to a parent whose child has diabetes about carb counts, they start to feel more relief, because I am speaking the same language as they do and that gives them great comfort.”

Concluded Olsen, “I think the preparation for the SNS exam and the decision to take it is a marvelous commitment a person can make to school nutrition. It shows very publicly your dedication to doing the job well and even furthering your career by saying: this is what I want to do and this is what I want to be.”

Learn how you can join Karen Olsen and many foodservice professionals by earning your SNS. Get started today!

Contact Us

2900 S. Quincy Street, Suite 700
Arlington, VA 22206

Tel (703) 824-3000
Fax (703) 824-3015

> For The Media

Sign Up for Our Newsletters

Read the latest news and developments facing the school nutrition industry, as well as stay on top of important trends and resources.


> Read the Latest Newsletters

SNA State Associations

The School Nutrition Association has a presence in every state across the country. View links to many of the state associations to find out more about what SNA is doing nationwide. 

> Learn More