Innovation Reigned Supreme at SNIC 2017


SNA's 2017 School Nutrition Industry Conference
USDA Foods Taste Test Session at OCPS

Almost 600 enthusiastic school nutrition operators and industry partners came together in (mostly) sunny Orlando, Fla., for three jam-packed days of learning at SNA’s School Nutrition Industry Conference (SNIC). The conference theme, “Imagination + Knowledge = Innovation” was a part of every aspect of the conference agenda and served as the key take away from the conference.

SNA's 2017 School Nutrition Industry Conference
SNIC Opening General Session Speaker Kai Kight

Four complimentary pre-conference sessions were offered on Saturday. These popular sessions focused on Breakfast in the Classroom, CN labeling and SNA’s new training course on business ethics. An off-site session was held at nearby Cyprus Creek High School, part of Orange County (Fla.) Public Schools (OCPS), where USDA’s Food and Nutrition Services showcased creative ways that USDA Foods can be incorporated into delicious recipes for school meals. Attendees taste-tested several dishes and offered feedback through a tablet-based system used by the OCPS Food & Nutrition Services department with their students. Members of the OCPS team also offered tours of the site’s renovated kitchen and serving areas, as well as of their food truck and new mobile serving option: a converted golf cart!

SNA's 2017 School Nutrition Industry Conference
SNIC General Session Speaker Dr. Jim Painter

Sunday’s Opening General Session proved to be just the inspiration conference-goers were looking for. Violinist and motivational speaker Kai Kight entered the Ballroom playing the violin as he strolled among the attendees. Kight performed beautiful original music and shared stories from his own transformation as an artist, challenging the audience to “bring their own music to the world!” Later in the day, food/nutrition trends forecaster Dr. Jim Painter delivered his fresh take on some of the biggest nutrition-based trends in the food industry. In his presentation, “Fats in Vogue, Wheat Woes and Uh-Oh GMOs,” he debunked some of the myths vs. facts when it comes to making healthy eating choices.

SNA's 2017 School Nutrition Industry Conference
SNIC attendees took part in STEPS Challenge wellness event

On Monday, the first General Session focused on clean label trends, with an engaging discussion featuring a diverse panel of school nutrition operators, and moderated by SNA President Dr. Becky Domokos-Bays, RD, SNS, and longtime industry member Sean Leer, CEO of Gold Star Foods. Additionally, Cindy Long, deputy administrator of USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, addressed attendees, detailing USDA’s “Top 10” new innovations, including a long-awaited update to the Food Buying Guide for child nutrition programs, summer feeding promotional tools and a manufacturer’s Product Formulation Statement workbook.

Throughout SNIC, registrants attended a variety of education sessions from Innovative Solution Sessions where operators and industry members joined together to find answers to everyday issues that arise in the cafeteria—to specific Learning Labs designed to enhance their school nutrition program or operation, such as “Innovative Ways to Increase Participation,” “Putting the Power of Cultural Diversity to Work for You” and “Making Supper Programs Work for You.”

SNA's 2017 School Nutrition Industry Conference
The 2017 FAME Award winners were recognized during SNIC

At SNIC 2017, there was also special time for celebration and camaraderie during the 2017 FAME Awards when six school nutrition professionals were honored for their exceptional efforts in K-12 foodservice. Additionally, fun and fitness was the name of the game when attendees took part in the STEPS Challenge Wellness yoga event—wearing matching navy blue STEPS Challenge shirts and finding zen during a storm that produced the first tornado warning the area had seen in decades!

SNA's 2017 School Nutrition Industry Conference
SNIC's Closing General Session featured innovative school meal recipes
by Sharon Schaefer

The conference wrapped up on Tuesday with the Closing General Session, “Innovative Menu Planning,” featuring trained chef turned proud “school lunch lady,” Sharon Schaefer, SNS. As she led this interactive gathering, she explained, “When we need to implement imagination, try to look at it through the eyes of a child. Sometimes, exactly what we need to know is right in front of us.” As part of Schaefer’s presentation, participants were given a booklet of more than 40 recipes collected from school districts and featuring some of the latest innovations and trends in school meals. Two of these were served up to attendees before leaving for the airport.

Once again, SNIC proved to be a wonderful way for operators and industry partners to start the new year—energized, enthused and equipped with innovative ideas for school nutrition success! Mark your calendar now and join us for next year’s SNIC, taking place January 21-23, 2018, in New Orleans, La.

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