More than 5,000 school nutrition professionals paraded into the Dallas Convention Center Monday as the exhibition hall opened for the School Nutrition Association’s Annual National Conference (ANC). A pep rally led by the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders and Cowboys running back Tashard Choice got the crowd fired up to see the latest school foodservice products for the coming school year.
|SNA President Dora Rivas cuts the ribbon to open the exhibit hall as Tashard Choice of the Cowboys and Assistant White House Chef Sam Kass look on|
There were lots of giant foam cowboy hats and waving pom-pons as the crowd made its way from the pep rally stage to the exhibit hall. More than 340 companies are showcasing healthy, energy efficient and kid-friendly improvements in school nutrition at 760 exhibit booths at this year’s ANC.
With school nutrition professionals working hard to meet the goals of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign, exhibitors are stepping up to the challenge with new, healthier, kid-friendly products.
For The Food Channel crew it was a day to meet dignitaries as we had an opportunity to interview White House Assistant Chef and Senior Policy Advisor Sam Kass, as well as the USDA’s Under Secretary of Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Janey Thornton. Chef Kass posed for numerous photo requests as he was stationed in the exhibit hall’s “USDA Lane” where many fresh fruits and veggies were on display.
|USDA Deputy Under Secretary Janey Thornton|
Under Secretary Thornton talked to us about the Healthier US School Challenge and said her message to the SNA members was that “each and every person can make a difference” when it comes to children’s nutrition.
We paid a visit to “Produce Row” where SNA members sampled ready-to-eat, single-serve, prepackaged cut fruits and vegetables including sliced carrots, citrus fruits, berries, U.S.-grown dry peas, lentils and chickpeas. The strawberries were especially juicy and delicious.
Exhibitors’ theme: making it healthier
We made our way over to Dairy Way and met up with Janet Grubbs from the National Dairy Council. The NDC crew was encouraging SNA attendees to sign a wall in their booth signifying a commitment to help students to eat healthy and get at least an hour of physical activity per day. It’s part of the NDC’s “Fuel Up and Play 60” program—promoted in partnership with the National Football League.
Julie Bowman, marketing director for Pinnacle Foods, introduced us to Waffelo the juggler, who’s there to symbolize the foodservice director’s struggle to juggle healthy food choices that must also be good tasting and fun to eat for kids. Pinnacle is aiming to help them meet the challenge with whole grain pancakes, waffles and French toast. Waffelo does a nice job juggling those waffles.
|Culinary demos played to capacity crowds|
Kid favorite foods with reduced sodium was front and center with Advance Foods. Michael Turley, V.P. of sales and dietitian Jill Parker explained that the company has reduced the sodium content in its five most popular products by an average of 25 percent, including its number one selling beef hamburger pattie.
Breakfast was much on the mind of Jim Ruhling, Director of Sales, School Foodservice for Michael Foods. He showed us some of the company’s whole grain healthy choices for K-12 kids. We had a chance to taste their Papetti’s brand Pizza Flavored Omelet, Cinnamon Glazed French toast, and turkey sausage and egg biscuits. Ruhling also talked to us about Michael Foods’ Colors for Kids promotion.
Some of the other products on display in the exhibit hall today:
- Beverages â€“ Low sugar, low calorie flavored and plain milk in 1% and fat free varieties; soy beverages, made with organic soybeans; 100% juice and flavored waters.
- Dairy â€“ Low-fat and shredded cheeses, yogurt, cottage cheese
- Whole grain and multigrain products â€“ Pasta, noodles, tortillas, cereals, breads and pizza crust.
- Nutrient-rich spreads and dips â€“ Hummus, sour cream, dips, creams, butter
- Lean protein â€“ Genuine Alaska pollock; whole muscle pork, beef, and turkey products; egg-based entrees and lean deli meats.
- Healthy student favorites â€“ Pizzas with whole grain crusts, low-fat cheese, and low sodium toppings; zero trans fat, baked potato fries and wedges, including sweet potato fries; breaded whole-grain chicken products; high quality, calcium-rich ice cream.
- Peanut-free alternatives â€“ A variety of spreads including soy nut butter and sunflower seed butter.
- Energy efficient equipment – Combi ovens, serving counters, self-service salad bars, milk merchandisers, convection ovens, heated cabinets and point-of-sale systems.
|Incoming SNA President Nancy Rice|
We also did back-to-back interviews with outgoing SNA President Dora Rivas and incoming president Nancy Rice. It was Ms. Rice’s first interview as SNA president-to-be. Stay tuned to The Food Channel for those interviews, coming soon.
In addition, we attended an SNA Education session bringing members up to speed on the Let’s Move! campaign initiated by the First Lady, and a session to review plans for this fall’s National School Lunch week promotion.
It was like an epic Western. We covered a lot of territory, and our feet still hurt. But we met a lot of real nice folks, and we sure didn’t go hungry.
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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