Meet the Candidates for SNA Vice President

2014-10-07

This year’s candidates for School Nutrition Association vice president are Lynn Harvey, EdD, RD, LDN, SNS, chief, School Nutrition Services, North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, and Wendy Weyer, RD, SNS, director, Seattle (Wash.) Public Schools. When elected, the vice president begins a four-year cycle that also includes the positions of president-elect, president and School Nutrition Foundation president, helping to maintain the continuity of SNA leadership.

Lynn Harvey, EdD, RD, LDN, SNS
Although Lynn Harvey, EdD, RD, LDN, SNS, has spent a better part of two and a half decades working in child nutrition, she’s never felt like she was in some lofty role of bettering the lives of children through food.

Rather, “It has been a great privilege to do what I do,” Harvey insists, whether about her first post-college job as a pediatric nutritionist or her current position as the chief of School Nutrition Services at the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. In pursuing her mission of serving children, helping children develop lifelong eating habits and, yes, even being “part of the fight” to make others understand the importance of school nutrition, she knows she’s not alone.

“It has been so humbling to work with school nutrition professionals in all positions, who have committed to going above and beyond for this same purpose,” she says. “I’m always amazed by the level of commitment and resilience that school nutrition personnel possess. There’s truly something special about this profession and the people who make it.”

Her first experience with “these hardworking men and women” was during her tenure at Meredith College, where she trained associates during a summer foodservice program. “I look back and laugh because there I am, pea green, in college and learning about nutrition and diet. And here are these people that spend every day of their lives in the school cafeteria doing what they do best, and I’m telling them how to do it better,” Harvey reminisces. “To look back to see how accepting they were to these brand-new ideas was so humbling to me.”

So that’s where she caught the school nutrition “infection”—her words—and, once acquired, “There’s no cure.” After graduation, she went on to earn a master’s degree in nutrition and food systems management from East Carolina University and, eventually, a doctorate in education from North Carolina State University, Along the way, she’s picked up the other letters behind her name and also became a Fellow of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a distinction that less than 1% of dietitians earn. Obtaining what she considers her ultimate goal has never been easy. “It has taken a considerable effort to help people understand that truly children are our future,” she says.

That’s why Harvey’s top goal, if elected SNA vice president, is to “firmly and unquestionably establish SNA as the national leader and authoritative source for current, evidence-based information and best practices and future trends in school nutrition programs.” Harvey’s experience at the state agency level, she believes, can help achieve that—after all, she has an already-established direct relationship with many of the stakeholder groups, including USDA. She even finds a silver lining in the recent media controversy over school meals. “Maybe, at the end of the day, this discussion that we’ve had nationally has been a good thing,” she ruminates. “It has elevated the importance of school nutrition to national decision-makers … This is about nourishing our future, and I look forward to the opportunity to be part of the conversation.”

Wendy Weyer, RD, SNS
On the very first day Wendy Weyer, RD, SNS, began work at Seattle Public Schools—she was the administrative dietitian for the Nutrition Service Department at the time, now she serves as its director—she experienced a startling example of the importance of school meals to individual children in the community.

“I’m helping a new manager, and seeing these little kids go through the line,” she remembers. They were kindergarteners. “I thought, ‘Oh, they’re so cute.’” This little girl comes through the line—she couldn’t have been more than 3 feet tall, Weyer says—and tries to enter her PIN, but it doesn’t work. “She pulled her pockets out of her pants to show the cashier she had no money. It broke your heart in the moment, but it reminded you of the value you provide to students.”

The memory lingers, constantly driving Weyer to make sure that her staff is thoroughly trained and the meals they serve are high-quality. Such examples of the direct impact of school meals simply reinforce her dedication to school nutrition, which commenced in college at Washington State University. “I had this passion centered working around food,” she says, recognizing that by working in this field, she could affect a child’s lifelong eating behaviors. She became a registered dietitian the same year she graduated with her bachelor’s in food science and human nutrition and, after a stint working in senior nutrition—as initially there were no K-12 job openings in the Seattle area—she began her school nutrition career with that fateful little girl. The job was, she says, perfect for her both personally and professionally, and she has since enjoyed working with the students, parents and public on how eating can affect a child’s behavior.

It’s no secret to Weyer that the struggles school nutrition professionals face right now are real, but they don’t intimidate her. She has worked to prove her leadership skills since joining SNA in 2005, serving on both the Association’s national Nutrition Committee and Public Policy & Legislation Committee for a number of years. She calls herself an analytical thinker and a good listener—a product of being a middle child, and therefore, a natural referee, she contends—both qualities that would benefit an SNA president.

Weyer has three goals, if elected: Strengthen membership numbers, champion advocacy efforts and continue to support and develop professional training programs. She knows that SNA members don’t always have the same opinions, “but we’re all here to make sure we’re looking out for the students the best we can.” As the next Child Nutrition Reauthorization looms near, she’d like to receive input from members on priorities that are important to them, as well as to seek opportunities to work with them on implementing inevitable changes and growing school nutrition programs.

“I have grown so much through my membership and the opportunities I’ve been provided [by SNA],” she says. “Stepping up as a leader, even in a difficult time, is something I’m ready for. It’s something I can be successful at.”

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