When Will McWhirter went back to school for his master’s degree, he decided that an MBA was the best way to enhance his bachelor’s degree in nutrition; understanding both aspects of his job can only make him more effective both now, and in the future.
“I’m about halfway through, and it’s been a lot of fun—I’ve learned a lot so far,” said Will by phone. “I’m going to St. Leo University for my MBA. I wanted to get a different experience, make myself a little more well-rounded, so that I can take on all the different aspects of child nutrition programs.”
Will first became an SNA member when he completed his dietetic internship through the Sarasota County School District, a program that requires membership as part of the curriculum. His experiences were positive, and so membership was a no-brainer when Will began working full-time in school nutrition at Charlotte County Public Schools in Florida.
“It was a good experience from the start,” says Will of his SNA membership. “I’ve held local positions with our Charlotte County SNA, and in the future I’d like to pursue state-level [involvement], but I have to finish my master’s degree first—I have a lot on my plate!”
When we asked Will what drew him to school foodservice, he said there were two main factors. First, he loved the educational environment which he credits to having a mother who was an educator. Second, he appreciated the opportunities to help others that school foodservice in particular could provide.
“I knew I wanted to work in foodservice, but not necessarily child nutrition at the beginning,” explained Will. “University, even hospital foodservice—these are great, with opportunities to help others, but I guess it was the ‘volume’ [that attracted me] to child nutrition. Feeding children, future generations—that drew me.”
Even though Will is incredibly busy in his role as food and nutrition specialist—Charlotte County has universal free breakfast at several elementary schools, and Will implemented “Wild Fruit Wednesdays” to give kids the opportunity to try and learn about new, exotic produce—he sees his efforts as a stepping stone toward the future. And having SNA and SNF resources available is a huge help—not just in terms of offsetting the costs associated with attending college, but with his professional education and development as well.
“I found out about scholarships because Florida SNA advertises quite a bit, and from there I was curious and looked to see if SNA had anything at the national level and of course they do,” said Will. “Plus word-of-mouth from other members—there are scholarship opportunities from a variety of different levels in an organization the size of SNA.”
Citing Webinar Wednesdays and Talk Tuesdays as some of his favorite SNA resources, Will urged fellow members to seek out and leverage the tools to maximize their personal success, as well as the success of their child nutrition programs.
“The range of topics, from social media to program marketing to nutrition education—and understanding the legislation of child nutrition—these are resources SNA members should be taking advantage of,” said Will. Will also added that he believes that the most current pressing challenge for SN professionals today is battling the negative perceptions of school food—a challenge that can be met utilizing SNA resources.
“It’s not time to slow down, it’s time to push to educate others on school food. People know so little about child nutrition, and people love to make assumptions about it. It’s a constant challenge to battle that perception, be it from our own students, parents, administrators, or community members.”
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