SNF Scholarship Series: ANC First Timer Connie Melton, Cafeteria Manager, Fort Gibson Public Schools, Oklahoma

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.

School nutrition is a family affair for ANC First Timer Connie Melton. Not only did her mother work in school nutrition, her sister does too—Kathy Reich is Fort Gibson Public Schools’ district director, and also Melton’s sister.

“I’ve known my boss my whole life!” she laughed.

“Working in the cafeteria is really a family tradition,” said Melton. “My mother worked in the cafeteria for many years, and she’s now retired; she had been to many, many conferences. I was really surprised to be nominated, and this will be my first time in San Antonio.”

Although she’s worked in school nutrition for fifteen years—ten as cafeteria manager—Melton has never found herself at a national conference. The nomination came as a complete surprise; Reich had kept the nomination a secret.

“It was a surprise, and I was REALLY surprised!” recalled Melton. “This is the first time I’ve had the chance to go to something this big. I’m looking forward to learning a lot about new regulations and new techniques, and hopefully finding some recipes the kids will enjoy. Kids are very picky, and it can be hard to get them to try new things.”

“Connie is so good with the kids,” said Reich. “I nominated her because I thought it would be a good learning experience. She’s never been to a convention, and it’s good for her to go and see how it all works.”

Reich has been the district director of child nutrition for Fort Gibson for 16 years, and has worked in school nutrition for 26. This won’t be her first national conference, and she’s excited to share the experience with her sister.

“ANC motivates you,” said Reich. “By the end of the year you’re tired and ready for a break, and then ANC gets you motivated to come back and try new things and jump start that program.”

Like her sister, Reich is heading into ANC in search of ideas on a few specific topics, including marketing and menuing.

“I’m always looking for new menu items, something to get the kids excited,” she said. “Of course I’m always looking for any way to promote our program. We have salad bars and fresh fruits and vegetables, and we’re try to offer lots of choices for the [older] kids in the middle and high schools.”

Melton said she’s grateful that SNF offers resources like the First Timer award and other scholarships, which help members grow both personally and professionally—whether they are new to the profession, or longtime SNA members.

“I’ve been with schools for fifteen years, and this is my very first ANC. I’ve been a School Nutrition Association member for–,” Melton paused, and then began to laugh.

“You know what?” she asked. “I’m not exactly sure how long I’ve been a member—we’ll have to remember to ask my boss!”

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