Passion, Pride and Politics

Passion, Pride and Politics

Food & Drink

Passion, Pride and Politics


It was another busy day in the wild west at the School Nutrition Association’s Annual National Conference, highlighted by the announcement of the District of the Year, and impassioned speeches from the Dallas Convention Center’s main stage.

Fairfax County Public Schools, Va., was named the 2010 District of the Year in School Nutrition on Tuesday during the 2nd General Session. On behalf of the school district, Food and Nutrition Services Director, Penny McConnell, RD, SNS, accepted the award of $25,000 to further improve and enhance the district’s school nutrition program operations (click here to read more).

Penny McConnell

We had a chance to speak with Ms. McConnell, a 45-year veteran of school foodservice in Fairfax County, who was clearly thrilled that her district was so honored. The district works hard to be creative in its marketing of healthy nutrition to students, parents and the general public, McConnell said, coming up with lots of catchy themes to drive home the message of healthy nutrition and physical activity. She also told us with pride that her district had never, ever sold soft drinks or candy on school premises.

Fizzy fruit juice

Out on the exhibit floor, one product trend we took note of was this new category of sparkling fruit juice. We found three different brands of bubbly carbonated fruit juices, all sold in slim, colorful aluminum cans that resemble those used by energy drinks such as Monster and Red Bull. We first tried one called The Switch, then one named Fruit 66, and finally another that goes by the simple name, Envy. All were tasty and refreshing, and have obvious kid appeal.

On “Produce Row,” we sampled luscious fresh pineapple and mango at the Caito Foods/Fresh Line booth and talked with Steve Harrold. Caito aims to help schools cut labor costs by supplying pre-cut, pre-packaged fresh fruits and vegetables. Their display was a rainbow of colors.

The Food Channel Team ate its way through many an aisle, sampling tasty whole grain rice dishes from Uncle Ben’s at the MARS Foodservice booth on one stop, learning about energy boosting from Tim Farno and Elsa Pong.

We heard all about fat-free butter products at the Butter Buds booth from an energetic Jim Dodge. His enthusiasm was contagious.

Lori Simco from Tyson talked to us about ‘stealth health’—serving students nutritious food that doesn’t taste like ‘health food.’ Kids palates are more sophisticated than ever, she told us, and Tyson tries to create products that are similar to those sold in the commercial realm. We sampled one of the company’s tasty breakfast sandwiches, a chicken sausage product on a honey-wheat biscuit.

Along Dairy Way we stopped at Lala USA talking with Sheri McCrary and Victor Jaramillo, and tasted flavored milks in chocolate, strawberry and one that harkened us back to our younger days with a taste just like a dreamcicle ice cream bar. We also had our photos taken with (fake) milk mustaches at the ‘Got Milk?’ display put up by the MilkPep people, after a great conversation with Julie Buric.

At the McCain Foods booth, Don Moos clued us in on baked sweet potato wedges, a healthy new product targeted to kids K-12. We stopped by to visit the Smucker Foodservice people and tried their whole wheat Uncrustables sandwiches and the new Chocolate Chip pre-sweetened Snack’n Waffles, made with whole grains.

Dr. Janey Thornton stresses the urgency of passing the Child Nutrition Re-Authorization Bill

“Call Congress now”

At the general session in the afternoon, one major point of emphasis was the urgency to get the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Bill passed in Congress. SNA members were asked to call their Congressman with the simple message: Pass this bill now!

The session’s keynote speaker, Ellie Krieger told the audience she was tired of hearing school foodservice people being singled out for the childhood obesity epidemic. Parents need to set a better example, she said, noting that only 16% of parent-packed sack lunches contain a vegetable, while 80% have chips, cookies or sugary drinks.

Krieger, a registered dietitian, best-selling author and host of the Food Network’s ‘Healthy Appetites’ told the SNA members that there’s tremendous momentum for change right now. ‘The impact you can have on school children is awe-inspiring,’ she said. ‘You are the biggest restaurant in town,’ she pointed out to the crowd. She urged the foodservice professionals in the audience to 1.) Embrace change (because it’s coming!), 2.) Build teams (with parents, administrators, chefs, colleagues), and 3.) Spread the word … about the good work you’re doing.

The Food Channel was able to catch up with Ellie Krieger before her keynote address. Here’s a video clip from our interview.

Tomorrow: The conference wraps up on Wednesday. Among the highlights is the unveiling of a new SNA community outreach program called Tray Talk.

For more from SNA ANC, follow us on Twitter or at Facebook.

See Day 3 Photos on our Food Channel Facebook page here.

Click links below for other SNA Conference coverage
Video: Highlights from the School Nutrition Association’s Annual National Convention
Video: Ellie Krieger’s Advice for SNA
Video: White House Food Blogger Offers Tip on The First Lady
Top Ten Things Seen at the School Nutrition Association Conference
Nancy Rice Named 2010-2011 President of SNA
SNA Closing Session:Passing the Torch, Looking to the Future
Passion, Pride and Politics
Fairfax County Named School District of the Year
School Nutrition Pros Descend on Dallas Exhibit Hall
SNA Conference Opens with Guest from The White House
SNA Conference to Focus on Healthy Food Trends in School Meals
National Dairy Council promotes “Fuel Up and Play 60”
Michael Foods touts colorful promo, new products
Pinnacle Foods helps schools to juggle nutrition, fun, and flavor
Advance Food Company reduces sodium in its top-selling CN products

ANC 2010 Coverage Sponsored By:


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