On the Road to Change – SNA’s Child Nutrition Industry Conference in Orlando

January 19, 2012—No one knows better than school nutrition operators the many bumps, ruts and blind curves that mark the road they travel each day to serve kids healthy school meals. But the way may have gotten a little smoother—at least for the 520-plus operators and industry representatives that gathered in Orlando, Fla., January 15-17, 2012, for SNA’s annual Child Nutrition Industry Conference (CNIC). Working to “Create Your Roadmap for Change,” attendees shared sources of motivation and inspiration in a dynamic learning and networking event that drew a record number of participants.

CNIC kicked off with words of wisdom from Pat Williams, senior vice president of the Orlando Magic professional basketball team. Williams spoke on the qualities of great teams and described his philosophy on leadership: If you have “a leader that is on fire [with passion], it will burn up the place!” But individuals must also commit to being “the best teammate ever,” he cautioned, noting that great teams are committed to each other and to excellence and to the highest qualities imaginable.

Several lively presentations focused on trends and innovations in marketing to kids. Brian Wansink, PhD, director of the Cornell University Food & Brand Lab, revealed findings from his Smart Lunchroom Movement research. Noting that “It’s not nutrition until it’s eaten,” Wansink went on to bust several common myths about children’s eating behaviors and offered ideas for increasing participation—and consumption of healthy foods. Be a “foodservice hero,” he encouraged attendees.

Phil Lempert, Food Advocate and Media Personality, also shared his expertise on kid consumer trends, highlighting 10 top food trends, which include food trucks, the “ethnic food revolution” and an increased emphasis on the “Farm to Fork” journey.

Panelists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service previewed and clarified areas of implementation of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. This included important details about direct certification, procurement training and compliance monitoring. Special Industry Information sessions offered targeted presentations to industry attendees.

Personal wellness was a key focus in this year’s CNIC agenda and a priority for program cochairs Julia Bauscher, SNS, director of nutrition services, Jefferson County (Ky.) School District, and Gary Vonck, vice president of education sales, KeyImpact Sales & Systems, Naperville, Ill. Attendees were offered an opportunity to “Wake Up & Walk” each morning before breakfast; groups also participated in either an afternoon walk or tai chi session; and energy-filled general sessions focused on the importance of taking the necessary steps to improved health and fitness. Among these was the event’s closing session, featuring the inspirational journey of Ali Vincent, the first female winner of NBC’s popular “The Biggest Loser” weight-loss reality television series. Vincent’s honest and engaging presentation made such an impression that she has been invited to give an encore at SNA’s Annual National Conference in Denver this summer.

Ample opportunities for networking between operators and industry are a hallmark of CNIC. Innovation Stations offered operators special advance previews of recently introduced or in-development products, services and solutions. And for the first time, attendees enjoyed a dynamic “MyPlate Mixer,” a unique meal presentation based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the new MyPlate nutrition guidance.

For more CNIC 2012 coverage, visit SNA’s Facebook page or coverage on Twitter with the hashtag #CNIC2012. Additional coverage will appear in the April issue of School Nutrition magazine.

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