The three words that define the School Nutrition Foundation’s mission appear on our logo: Education, Research, and Scholarship. Over the years we’ve talked about the importance of continuing education here at Beyond Breakfast, and one-on-one with school nutrition professionals from around the country at various conferences. Over and over again we hear School Nutrition Association members say things like, “If it weren’t for my director, I wouldn’t have applied for my scholarship,” and “My manager told me about SNA, and encouraged me to become a member.” What statements like those demonstrate, above all else, is the strong sense of community and loyalty school nutrition professionals enjoy, and it’s a constant source of inspiration for us.
We recently sat down with School Nutrition Foundation’s Director of Development Janet Hedrick. After LAC 2015, and this year’s Celebration of Heroes, we wanted to learn more about the importance of fundraising, the future of the Annual Fund, and to get Janet’s thoughts on how members can pursue their dreams—and make the world a better place in the process.
Education and Professional Development
We continue to hear that the number one need of SNA members is professional development and training. With the proposed Professional Standards from USDA, SNA members more than ever will need specific knowledge and training to meet those standards. The Foundation will be supporting the efforts of SNA to make learning new skills and enhancing the knowledge on school nutrition “best practices” more accessible to SNA members.
Best practices that are backed up with research findings sets everyone up for success, according to Janet. “Research becomes very important when we talk about what best practices are; it’s one thing to say “this works” but it’s another to have data that is research-driven,” she explained, pointing to breakfast-in-the-classroom as one example.
“Partners for [BIC] is a very good example of [our involvement] in research endeavors,” said Janet. “Our research helps develop best practices, and we can show how much participation goes up when breakfast comes into the classroom, and what goes along with that—increased test scores, better behavior, and a whole assortment of benefits for kids who come to school without that morning meal.” School nutrition professionals can find research-based resources and tools online both on this blog, and at the Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom website.
Creating opportunities for SNA members to further their education—and their careers—helps individual members, their respective schools and school districts, as well as SNA and the school nutrition field as a whole. Whether you are enhancing your skills by attending a conference or pursuing a degree, an SNF scholarship may help you achieve your goals.
“I think that our focus has been on scholarships because it’s been very, very important to SNA members,” Janet shared. “Members are the ones who are closest to the mission—who understand the importance of education.”
Members should ‘spread the word’ to colleagues to make them aware of the opportunities available through SNA; oftentimes it’s a nudge from a mentor or colleague that helps someone make the leap.
“Members who are involved in an educational program and working toward a degree have the opportunity to apply for [SNF] scholarships,” said Janet. “But I think it’s important for SNA members to keep these opportunities in mind not only for themselves, but for their staff, their colleagues, and anyone else they know in the association.”
SNF also provides other types of scholarship awards, such as scholarships to attend national SNA conferences and equipment grants to help schools and districts upgrade their school meal kitchen facilities.
The Foundation, Moving Forward
SNF’s fundraising is a crucial aspect of what makes education and professional development, research that supports ‘best practices’, and scholarships available, as dues alone can’t cover everything—and that’s where the Foundation steps in. Corporate donations are a huge help, but it is member donations that can have the biggest impact. “It’s those contributions—which are tax-deductable—that make it possible to supplement the many things that SNA does,” explained Janet. “We can provide things beyond what SNA membership dollars can provide, and that includes education and professional development, research, and scholarships.” In the coming year, Janet hopes the Foundation will be able to further expand and support these programs, including assistance for members who need help in meeting the proposed USDA professional standards.
There are big plans for the Foundation in 2015—we’re going to put the ‘fun’ in ‘fundraising’ with several different events with members. “We’ll do #GivingTuesday again this year on December 1st, the day was such a success for us last year,” said Janet. In addition, there is a soon-to-be-announced competition to benefit the Annual Fund, but we don’t have all the details on that—yet. Stay tuned to Beyond Breakfast and the School Nutrition Foundation Facebook page for the official announcement in late April!
At the end of the day, the true SNF mission is connecting members with the resources they need to meet their daily challenges in providing nutritious food to children to prepare them for learning, and to establish healthy lifelong behaviors. It was a story from an industry representative that helped remind Janet “why we do what we do.”
“Tom Ferris from AdvancePierre talked about one of the first impressions he had when he started in this business,” Janet recounted. “He remembers seeing a little girl come through the [lunch] line. She made eye contact with the cashier, who motioned her through the line, and then reached into her own pocket to get money to put into the cash register. And Tom said that didn’t happen just once, but over and over and over again. That dedication of the people in foodservice impressed him so much and made such an impact on him about the importance of what school nutrition professionals do. His regret is never telling that school nutrition employee how meaningful her actions were.”