Attendees Find Going to ANC the First-Time was an Experience of a Lifetime


SNA's 2017 Annual National Conference (ANC)

The following is the sixteenth in a series of news stories exploring the exciting opportunities and events at ANC.

Patrick Howell got the thrill of a lifetime at SNA’s Annual National Conference (ANC) in San Antonio last year when he visited the Ocean Spray booth in the Exhibit Hall and got to meet Justin Hagan and Henry Strozier, the two actors who play farmers in the agricultural cooperative’s television commercial.

“It was really exciting to meet and talk with them in person,” said Howell, who is employed as a manager at North Hamilton Elementary Schools in Jennings, Florida, which has a little over 500 students. “I had been working in the school district for four years and had been to several [Florida School Nutrition Association] conferences but this was the first time that I had been to ANC.

“We were so glad that we went and had a great time. Going to the Opening General Session and hearing Jackie Joiner-Kersee and the other Olympians [Shannon Miller and Rowdy Gaines], that really inspired me. The Educations Sessions, the STEPS Challenge Wellness event, and walking through the Exhibit Hall and seeing all the new and different products, it just made attending a great overall experience.”

Howell only got the opportunity to go ANC, after his supervisor had asked all the other managers in his district who wanted to go. He jumped at the chance.

“We came back with so many, many great memories and new ideas to share with our fellow employees,” noted Howell, who was joined by his wife, Joanie. “Being around something you love doing, and at the same time learning and networking with others, what more can you ask from a national conference?”

Also attending ANC for the first time in San Antonio was Ashlee Nickerson, who was looking forward to starting a new job later that summer as Nutrition Services Assistant Director with the Belton (Texas) Independent School District (ISD).

“I had been to TASN [Texas Association of School Nutrition] state conferences, but I was very excited when I was invited to go to the ‘big one’ at ANC because I learned so much from it,” said Nickerson who was experiencing her first year in foodservice and third as a supervisor. “The Education Sessions, especially the ones dealing with leadership were awesome and really beneficial for my career, having accepted this new position [at Belton ISD]. And in terms of networking, it was so valuable to me because, being new to Central Texas, it gave me the opportunity to meet other foodservice people from the area before I started my new job.”

Experiencing the Exhibit Hall with her new colleagues, Nickerson found the Culinary Demonstrations very helpful in determining what new pizza items they wanted to add to their menu.

“Interestingly, one of the vendors [Schwan’s Food Service Inc.], whose pizza products we were thinking of using was holding culinary demo,” recalled Nickerson, whose new ISD presently holds 15 campuses, serving about 1,100 students. “It was a great experience; we watched the demo and the video, and they actually gave us samples to eat.”

Excited to be returning to ANC in Atlanta, among the challenges Nickerson and her teammates hope to address this year is improving the school’s food tuck service and rebuilding the foodservice department.

“We have this old school bus that we converted into a food truck and it had its ups and downs during its first year so we want to talk to the vendors in the Exhibit Hall to see what products and services we could add to upgrade it,” explained Nickerson. “We also have a new management team in place and ANC is providing us with a great opportunity to work on together on leadership development to help re-build our department.

“Overall, I have found ANC is a great place for us to say: let’s really get as much information as we can so when we get back home to our district we can hit the ground running for the new school year. I know I am thrilled to be going back to Atlanta this year!”

Register for ANC 2017:

Sound interesting? The Regular Rate registration deadline has been extended to Friday, June 16! For a complete schedule, special event and general session information, hotel and travel information, Exhibit Hall information and more, visit or watch the ANC video.

Supervisor at North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale School District 622, Paula Pohlkamp observed, “I think that it is very rare that you have someone come once to ANC and say they are not going again. They realize how important their job is just by attending it”

Howell could not agree more.

“Being around something that you care about and at the same time, learned something to make you better at your job, it made going to ANC that first time a really worthwhile experience,” he concluded. “That is why when asked this spring, if I would like to go again this year I said ‘yes,’ and why I am really looking forward to returning to ANC this summer in Atlanta.”

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