One of our favorite aspects of ANC 2015 was the opportunity to connect with the many SNA/SNF scholarship recipients in attendance. In the coming weeks we will be sharing their stories with you: who they are, where they are from, and how their SNA/SNF scholarship made a difference in their personal, educational, and professional lives. Don’t miss the first installment of our series on Jason Mills, Nutrition Services Consultant for Jefferson County Public Schools.
It was Angela Allen’s director at Utah’s Jordan School District who encouraged her to apply for a First Timer scholarship to attend the Annual National Conference in Salt Lake City.
“She applied for me, actually,” laughed Allen during our phone conversation a few weeks ago. “When she contacted me again and said, ‘Hey, guess what—you won!’ we both laughed, and I was so excited—I couldn’t wait to attend.”
An SNA member for eight years, Allen has a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management and a lifelong interest in foodservice. “After I graduated from college my plan was to go into hotels, but I got pregnant with twins and it took my life course a little off-track for a little while!”
Once her kids were older Angela decided to return to work, and discovered that she loved the atmosphere of working in school setting. “It just fit to go to school,” explained Angela. “I like the kids, and I went from part-time to full-time and then into management.”
Attending conferences is a valuable use of time, and a major benefit of being an SNA member, explained Angela, but there are challenges to overcome. “Money and time are always issues, but I have attended all of the state conferences—all seven since I’ve been here.”
“ANC was my first national conference. As I progress in my career in school nutrition, I would definitely be interested in attending more national conferences. Attending gives you a new perspective; sometimes you can get tunnel vision, so it’s great to be able to compare and contrast with other professionals who do things differently. It was fun to talk with people and see what their challenges are versus our own challenges.”
For example, in the Jordan School District many students are moving to private charter schools, which poses a challenge for public school foodservice staff that is already working hard to raise participation.
“Trying to make the numbers work, that’s our challenge,” explained Angela. “Finding that balance of bringing in enough money to support the program, and keeping the kids’ interest at a level that supports the program. We want to appeal to the kids’ palates, but still keep costs under control.” As part of the effort to increase participation, the Jordan School District is cooking up all kinds of delicious items in their on-site, cook-from-scratch kitchen.
“We do macaroni and cheese that they really like, plus chicken enchiladas; we also make our own chili. We make our own bread from scratch, and that alone makes your kitchen and cafeteria smell good—that’s a big positive!”
For Angela, the opportunity to see how her colleagues across the country are solving challenges is a huge benefit of attending conferences, and it’s the information she actively sought during her time in Salt Lake City.
“The classes and general sessions that explained what we are doing across the country are always of great interest to me,” she explained. “It was interesting to hear what we are lobbying for, our concerns regarding changing regulations, and what we want changed. It’s also fun to go to the vendor fair to see what’s new, what’s changing there to meet the new regulations. And the guest speakers are fabulous—it was a great conference, all-around.”
Angela also encourages her fellow SNA members to apply for scholarships to help them advance their personal knowledge and careers.
“I’m just grateful that these scholarships are available to us; that the companies that sponsor them are willing to help. It can be cost prohibitive [to attend a national conference] and if your district can’t pitch in to help, and it comes out=of-pocket to get that additional training—without these scholarships it would be that much harder.”