ANC 2016: Golden Olympians, Award Winners and a Record Number of Exhibits!


“Riding in” from all corners of the country, dedicated, passionate and energized school nutrition professionals came to “Alamo City” (San Antonio, Texas) to Learn. Lead. Succeed. at SNA’s 70th Annual National Conference (ANC).

Approximately 6,500 members and participants have arrived in the second-largest city in Texas since early Saturday, when pre-conference education sessions began, including a sold out off-site session at the San Antonio campus of the Culinary Institute of America. Sunday marked the official start of the event, with highlights being SNA’s Red Carpet Awards Ceremony and the Opening General Session. After a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem from 15-year old Keelyn-Rayne Gutierrez, a student at Ronald Reagan High School at Northeast Independent School District, the Association’s Board of Directors, state presidents, State Agency directors and past presidents were introduced to attendees.

SNA Annual National Conference Red Carpet Award Ceremony Winners
Congratulations to the four SNA members who received national recognition for their superior
accomplishments in the school nutrition arena!

SNA President Jean Ronnei, SNS, thanked this year’s industry sponsors whose support helps make ANC an exciting and rich event, including Jennie-O Turkey Store, for their sponsorship of the Opening General Session keynote speakers and the STEPS Challenge. Additionally, Ronnei acknowledged the 2015-16 President’s Award of Excellence recipients: Sal Valenza, SNS, New Jersey; Kim Minestra, Illinois School Nutrition Association; and Sebasthian Varas, SNS, school Nutrition Association of Utah.

Attendees were visibly excited and displayed their pride with a big round of applause, when Ronnei reported that SNA membership remains the highest it’s been in over fifteen years at nearly 58,500 members!

Ronnei and SNA’s CEO Patricia Montague, CAE, provided a recap of some of the Association’s highlights and milestones, including the launch of a new public relations campaign that aims to position school meals as critical to the education environment and to student health and performance. They also discussed that Congress is considering a school meal block grant proposal that would cut funds for meal programs and abolish federal nutrition standards and eligibility mandates, and urged all ANC attendees (and all members) to help STOP the BLOCK by utilizing SNA’s Action Network to email your Members of Congress in opposition to school meal block grant proposals.

SNA Annual National Conference Olympic General Session Speakers
ANC's Opening General Session featured Olympians Rowdy Gaines, Jackie Joyner-Kersee
and Shannon Miller

Next, Ronnei introduced the Opening General Session’s keynote speakers. With the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in a month, it was a special treat for ANC attendees to hear from three renowned Olympic athletes: record-breaking swimmer Rowdy Gaines, track and field superstar Jackie Joyner-Kersee and gymnastic champion Shannon Miller. These Gold-medal winning elite athletes represented the United States in their respective Olympic games and competed at the highest level of sports in the world. This dynamic panel of Golden Olympians delighted the audience with both inspirational and amusing anecdotes from their Olympic journeys, and the experiences that shaped their futures helping children. All three praised SNA members for the work they do. Gaines remarked, “It’s you who are the heroes to our children!” Joyner-Kersee, who depended on the school meal programs said, “The professionals who worked in the cafeteria were like family. I relied on school breakfast and school lunch as a kid.” Miller jokingly divulged that “Pizza Day” was her favorite school meal, but now as a mother shared, “You see amazing changes in children when they get good nutrition and fitness.”

To kick off the second day of ANC on Monday morning, several hundred attendees arrived at San Antonio’s Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center to take part in the STEPS Challenge Wellness Event—Zumba! Sponsored by Jennie-O Turkey Store, event participants donned matching lime green t-shirts and enjoyed fun and fitness!

Later, always a conference highlight, the Exhibit Hall opened for business! This year it includes more than 900 exhibit booths—a record number for ANC! Plus, it boasts some note-worthy special events, such as the Big Reveal stage, Culinary Demonstrations and the Wellness Village. Once the doors opened, the enthusiasm level was at an all-time high as attendees checked out the latest food and beverage items on the market, plus supply, equipment and service solutions, software/hardware technology and nutrition education resources.

With professional development top of mind, attendees came prepared to take advantage of 100+ education sessions over the course of the conference. Sunday’s education schedule included can’t-miss sessions such as the Richard B. Russell Leadership Series: “Eight Insights to Help You Lead Like it Matters…Because it Does!,” “Simple Solutions for Dealing with Difficult People” and “Creating Memorable Presentations.” Monday’s buzz-worthy sessions included the “Developing Effective and Efficient Bids” and “Unscrambling Offer vs. Serve.”

Join in on the social media conference-related conversations happening now on SNA’s Facebook page and @SchoolLunch on Twitter—as well as in the conference mobile app, ANC on the Go. Visit SNA’s Flickr page to see pictures of all the #ANC16 action.

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