Welcome to the 2016 SNF Scholarship Series! We are thrilled to revisit this popular series, in which we connect with your SNA colleagues from around the country to learn more about them and how an SNF scholarship is helping them pursue goals and achieve their dreams. Our First Timer recipients were nominated by a supervising director to attend their first Annual National Conference in San Antonio, Texas. We’ll meet our First Timers and their directors in the weeks leading up to ANC. Please visit the SNA website to learn more about ANC 2016 in San Antonio.
Rita Vandiver and her daughter both love working in schools; Rita as a school foodservice employee in the St. James School District in Missouri, her daughter as an educator. Rita says she’s got the upper hand when it comes to having the best job in the school—and her granddaughter knows it, too.
“My daughter was studying for a test, and told the kids they needed to be quiet so Mommy could study,” recalled Rita. “My granddaughter speaks up and says, ‘Mom, I don’t understand why you want to go to school to be a teacher! You should be like Nana—everyone knows that kids like the lunch ladies better than anyone!’”
With ten years of school foodservice under her belt, Vandiver says that learning new things and sharing them with others are what keep her motivated and passionate about child nutrition.
“I’m excited about the educational training at ANC,” she said. “I can’t wait to hear some new ideas, and to bring things back here to share with my co-workers.”
That passion for learning and sharing is one of the many reasons why Vandiver’s director, Linda Webster, selected her for an ANC First Timer nomination this year.
“Rita has been very interested in attending ANC every year, but funds were not available,” said Webster. “She is always going on the SNA website, looking things up and reading. She goes to any and all free trainings she can find—she goes willingly, she’s always very interested in [further] training.”
According to Webster, Vandiver exemplifies what it means to “go the extra mile,” which the students notice—and they love her for it.
“She’s always trying to learn something new and different, and she does it for the students,” said Webster. “She does this little something extra where she’ll create something out of fruits and vegetables, and displays them at each of the three buildings so the kids can see it. They’ve come to expect it, so if there is [no food art] on display they’ll ask, ‘Where’s Miss Rita?’ We love to share those photos to our Facebook page, too.”
Serving as something of a “floater”, Vandiver splits her time between St. James’ three school buildings. After starting out as a dishwasher, Vandiver moved on to salad-maker; she’s don’t a little bit of everything, from serving on the line to working as a cashier. When she is called in to help, she “can pretty much do anything” from jumping in to wash dishes to setting up a salad bar.
“When we first started with salad bars I would go around and help with set-up,” said Vandiver. “Showing them how to break up colors—not putting green next to green, putting something red in there—and other tricks for making things more appetizing for children.”
Both Webster and Vandiver stress how critical their SNA memberships have been to their professional growth, and expressed appreciation for the resources and awards that allow members to pursue their goals.
“When I started [in school nutrition] I had some really good friends in the area that said, ‘You need to go to SNA and join SNA. I did, and I just fell in love with it—the trainings, the information, everything they offer,” said Webster.
Vandiver has been a member for about three years, and says Webster was instrumental in her decision to join SNA.
“I’ve been a member for three years. Linda encouraged me to get my membership, and I’m so glad. I love the magazine—I even use some of the recipes at home!”