ANC21 Takeaways: Communication, Technology, and Doing What You Love

Woman holding a thought bubble over her face in black and white on orange background with textural dot grids overlaid ANC21

While we weren’t in person for the School Nutrition Association‘s Annual National Conference 2021 (ANC21), the energy was high and the speakers left a lasting impression that attendees will carry into the upcoming school year.

For those who couldn’t attend ANC21, we’ve recapped some of the most memorable takeaways of the conference. Here are the highlights:

ANC21, Day 1: “There is a ripple effect when you do what you love.”

During Tuesday’s General Session called Resilience in the Face of Uncertainty, Ben Nemtin shared his story about a life-changing experience: traveling across the country with three friends to complete their list of “100 things to do before you die.”

While Ben and his friends were playing basketball with Obama, kissing the Stanley Cup, and fulfilling their bucket list, Ben realized he was doing much more than just checking off items on a list. He was creating a ripple effect.

Ben connected his personal experiences to the ripple effect our School Nutrition Professionals have on students, families, and communities.

Despite the constant pivoting our School Nutrition Professionals face every day, they remain dedicated and focused on what’s important – ensuring children are well-fed so they are ready to learn. His message to this hardworking, resilient industry:

“You are now getting well-deserved recognition which is overdue from the community. The work that you do every day is creating an immense positive ripple. You are so critical to a child’s day.”

Nemtin is the #1 New York Times best-selling author of What Do You Want To Do Before You Die? and a star of the MTV show The Buried Life. He is recognized as one of the World’s Best Motivational Speakers as well as World’s Top Organizational Culture Thought Leaders by Global Gurus (2020).

ANC21, Day 2: “We’re communicating more, and more efficiently than we were pre-pandemic.”

On Wednesday, the USDA facilitated an Education Session on COVID-19 titled Lessons Learned and Preparing for the Future. An impressive panel of experts provided insights on best practices and things to consider going into the next school year.

When asked “What are some best practices that positively impacted your ability to feed children during the pandemic,” Child Nutrition Manager, Brigette Hires, Ph.D., RD at Ohio BOH, responded with some great best practices:

  • Leveraged Microsoft Teams and developed a team specifically for Child Nutrition staff to ask and answer questions.
  • Daily staff check-ins to stay connected, actually see each other, and bounce ideas off each other.
  • Sent weekly email updates to schools and sponsors that provided a consistent way of receiving important information during a chaotic time.
  • Developed an advisory committee comprised of large and small districts. The committee shared their perspectives, offered industry-specific feedback, and vetted guidance on what schools and sponsors needed. 

ANC21, Day 3: “Choose technology that makes your day to day easier.”

At Thursday’s General Session, Nurturing Relationships in the Digital Age, we were thrilled to hear from Author, Futurist, and Technology Strategist Crystal Washington.

Washington opened the session by providing insightful communication tips to help districts reach students and families, promote their school nutrition program, and make school lunch exciting. Her advice to the audience:

  • Reach students and families where they are and how they want to be reached.
  • Not sure where they are or how they want to be reached? Conduct a survey!
  • Communicate with families in their own language within their own culture.
  • Leverage social networks as a communication tool and understand the culture within each social network to determine which one works best for the
    students and families you serve.

The Crystal Washington Game Show!

During the second half, Washington hosted a game show with some special guests: Immediate Past SNA President, Reggie Ross; Current SNA President Beth Wallace; and LINQ’s Chief Executive Officer Krista Endsley.

During the game show, Washington asked contestants to provide attendees with advice regarding technology. The first question: What piece of advice do you have for everyone listening right now? Their responses:

  • Endsley – “Choose technology that makes your day to day easier. It shouldn’t add extra stress or extra overhead, it should allow you to feed those amazing children every single day.”
  • Ross – “Give grace and allow for grace.”
  • Wallace – “Turn on your cameras, smile, and get ready for next year – it’s going to be awesome!”

Washington then asked: What technology are you in love with that helps you do your job better? Their responses:

  • Wallace – “I’m in love with my noise canceling Airpods.”
  • Ross – “Colyar, I’m in love with Colyar because we use it for administrative reviews, technical assistance, and directors use it to update their applications. It’s a very valuable software for us to use.”
  • Endsley – “My phone! I’m a huge proponent of work-life integration by being able to contact my daughters and be available for my team 24/7.”

ANC21: an Inspiring and Insightful Event for School Nutrition Professionals

While there were so many inspiring ideas at ANC21, we can all benefit from the following key takeaways:

  • When you do what you love, you will create a ripple effect that has more impact than you realize.
  • Open, honest communication with each other is crucial in this rapidly evolving school nutrition industry.
  • Your district can save time and money while streamlining operations with cutting-edge school nutrition and state reporting software in the 2021/2022 school year.

Watch: First Taste TV Spotlights the TITAN Platform

Hear from a nutrition director about how the TITAN platform boost their program on an episode of First Taste TV.


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