SNF Scholarship Series: ANC First Timer Mary Herring, CNP Associate, Hoover City Schools, Alabama

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.

“Artistic.” “Crafty.” “Engaged.”

These are three words used by Hoover City Schools’ CNP Director Melinda Bonner to describe her employee Mary Herring, winner of a 2016 ANC First Timer Award.

“I’ve known Mary for six years and if there is a promotion—National School Lunch Week, National School Breakfast Week, World Milk Day, you name it—Mary is going to dress up. And she works at the high school level! She decorates the cafeteria, she dresses up in character; she encourages the whole team to get involved and have fun, and she wants those high school kids engaged.”

That enthusiasm and easy ability to connect will serve Herring well at ANC, where Bonner says she—and all six of the Hoover employees accompanying her to San Antonio—will find inspiration in all aspects of the conference.

“From the general sessions to the roundtable, they will have the chance to meet other people, to see how they learn and work, and implement all of these ideas,” said Bonner. “They’ll gain ideas, and increase creativity. The Exhibit Hall will just blow their minds—the massive scale of it. They’ll also come back with a sense of pride of being a part of school nutrition.”

At Hoover City Schools, all employees of the child nutrition department enjoy SNA membership through a district membership. Last year Bonner started an incentive program around ANC, asking employees to achieve a Level Three certification to attend with costs covered up-front.

“Every year we have an evaluation,” said Herring. “[Bonner] and my manager said last year that I needed to work to get my Level 3. I set that goal, I worked hard, and I reached that goal.”

Looking ahead to ANC, Herring says she’s got her eye on a trip to the Exhibit Hall to help her get ideas for salads; as salad-maker, she’s always looking for ways to pique the students’ interest in fresh fruits and vegetables.

“A lot of our kids are into healthy eating,” said Herring. “So much has changed since we were in school. Our food now is so much healthier, and the kids have so many choices.”

For director Melinda Bonner, the national conference provides an opportunity to give her employees access to school nutrition in a broader context. As a past recipient of SNF scholarships, Bonner hopes more members will apply for funds to help them achieve personal and professional goals.

“ANC gives you such an awareness of the level of professionalism involved in child nutrition,” she shared. “It helps to know what a massive industry it really is.”

“I’m also the recipient of SNF scholarships that helped me finish my MBA,” Bonner continued. “Being a prior recipient, I want to pass that on and encourage [other members] to apply for scholarships. The Foundation is amazing, and I want [members] to be aware, to know that there is funding out there.”

Herring is also grateful for the award, and the opportunity SNF offers members who might otherwise not be able to cover the cost of attending a national conference. She can’t wait for the entire experience, from the 13-hour road trip from Alabama to Texas to the Exhibit Hall to the education sessions.

“I am so glad to have received the award—a friend of mine who works with me, we were planning on little yard sales and such to make money to go!” said Herring. “I like to make school a fun place. It should be a place to have fun, not a place to dread coming to. We work together so everyone has a great time. I can’t wait for the trip to San Antonio, and the whole experience–we’ll have a lot of fun together, just like at work.”

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