SNA Membership - a must have

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Dalia

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Theme Song: School Nutrition dietitian here on a mission to show you fruits and vegetables can be super delicious. Eating healthy keeps you healthy on the inside, keep your stomach satisfied and keep a clear mind now get ready for your academics, focus, time to handle business. Breakfast you don't want to miss it help your body to replenish clean food clear mind that is the vision. Tune in to the school nutrition dietitian.

Dalia

Hey, everybody,thank you for joining me for episode 3 of School Nutrition Dietitian. This is a special one, I've put together a compilation of interviews with the help of people working within the School Nutrition Association to help highlight some of the benefits of membership. Not all professional associations are created equal. So if you've had a bad experience in the past with a different professional association, where you couldn't tell where your money was going, and what the point of being a member was. I can promise you, you will not have that experience with SNA. The benefits of membership are really clear. They're really vast. It's an indispensable resource for anybody working in or around school nutrition. If you haven't already initiated your membership, I hope by the end of this episode, you will be inspired to do so.

Alright, let's jump right in.

Hi, Diane, thank you so much for coming coming on.

Diane Pratt-Heavner

Glad to join you.

Dalia

Can you tell us what the mission and the vision of SNA is for people who aren't familiar with what SNA does?

Diane Pratt-Heavner

SNA is working hard to make sure that our members school nutrition professionals across the country are equipped to do their jobs to be able to serve children, the healthiest, most nutritious meals possible. SNA is achieving that vision through our strong professional development programming, advocacy on behalf of members with USDA and Capitol Hill, and our media outreach on behalf of school meal programs.

Dalia

What is your role at SNA?

Diane Pratt-Heavner

I am Director of Media Relations for SNA. That means that I'm doing media outreach and response. There's a huge number of reporters out there who are writing stories about schools meals, some of them know very little about school meals and require a lot of education. Because so many of the folks writing about these subjects haven't been in a cafeteria in many years. So I really work hard working with our members to try and connect our members with the folks who are covering these issues in news rooms across the country, to try and get them up to date on nutrition standards, on school food service budgets, on professional standards, trying to make sure they're aware of how much work is going into making sure that kids are getting healthy, nutritious meals each day.

Dalia

Oh, that's really interesting. That's really helpful, I'm sure to people who have little media training or really no idea how to connect with the media to get ahead of some of these negative stories and contribute to some positive messaging about school nutrition.

Diane Pratt-Heavner

Yes, and we really are trying to be very proactive and getting media outlets to talk about the benefits of school meal programs. We do annual campaigns throughout the year at Back to School, during National School Lunch week, School Breakfast week around School Lunch Hero day, to encourage media outlets to visit their local school cafeterias and learn more about the good things going on and the healthy trends in school cafeterias.

Dalia

Can you explain the difference between SNA and its state level branches? I know that distinction can be a little confusing.

Diane Pratt-Heavner

Well SNA affiliates in 49 states I believe, are doing a lot of great things at the state level. We are working at the national level and certainly coordinate with our state affiliates on a regular basis. But yes, there are separate activities many states, state affiliates are are very active in doing advocacy at the state level or media outreach in their own individual states and their own, conferences throughout the year.

Dalia 5:18

That's really helpful. So what do you think people who are totally new to school nutrition, need to understand about the importance of connecting to their professional organization?

Diane Pratt-Heavner

There's just so many opportunities by becoming an SNA member that you're exposed to. Just at the very beginning the opportunity to network with peers, meet folks who are, working in the same profession share ideas and best practices, but the professional development opportunities with SNA are unparalleled, we work very hard to make sure that all of our education sessions and webinars are helping our members meet professional standards requirements. So that certainly is a benefit, and also really advocating on behalf of members with USDA and Capitol Hill.

Dalia

Fantastic. Thank you so much.

Can you explain to us Toni, what your role is at SNA?

Toni Vega Aiken

Sure, I am the Senior Program Manager in professional development. My job is comprised of overseeing all of our e-learning that consists of our webinars, webinars on demand, online training modules, and basically any online education.

Dalia

What role does professional development have in school nutrition? Are there set standards? For those that don't know? Can you speak about that a little?

Toni Vega Aiken

In 2015, the USDA implemented professional standards for school nutrition professionals. This requires a specific amount of training hours per year based on their position. So the training and professional development is very important to school nutrition professionals, not only for professional standards, and to meet the requirement, which is, of course important, but to also maintain their skill level, and to make sure that they're continuing to grow professionally.

Dalia

Since the objective is beyond just satisfying the minimum, would you say that it's important for people to continue studying even after they've met their CEU requirements for the year?

Toni Vega Aiken

Absolutely, and many, many people do. SNA has a certificate program. We have four levels. That certificate program based on what level you are, whether it's your level 1, 2, 3 or 4, requires you to have first a specific number of training hours in order to earn that certificate, depending on the level. Then you have to maintain it and renew it every year, so that you're showing your commitment to your profession. Many members do actually have a certificate in one of those four areas.

Dalia

I know there are a lot of professional organizations that don't offer quite a robust, included training program. Usually you have to pay for your annual membership. Then in addition to that, if you have webinars that are available, there's another fee. What is the pay structure like with SNA, is this just a benefit of membership.

Toni Vega Aiken

So webinars are a member benefit, both live webinars and the on demand webinars. The online training modules have a nominal fee. For example, our school nutrition ethics online training module is only $15 per member.The reason why we charge for that is just because of the amount of time that goes into development. You know, we're not trying to make money off of it. We're just trying to break even. The most important thing to us, of course, is getting the training to our members.

Dalia

Right, so I know there's a new tool that SNA is rolling out. Can you explain what that is and how it differs from what's already available?

Toni Vega Aiken

We just recently launched what we're calling the training zone, the training zone is a learning management system. The learning management system provides the benefits of one having all of the training and one easy to navigate location. But it also allows those using the system to save their training. So if they complete three, on demand webinars, those three certificates will remain on their profile, they can print them immediately, of course, and put them in a file. But should they misplace them, they can always come back and reprint them because they'll remain on that user's profile. It's just easier for the learner. Before we had implemented this, we kind of had our e-learning in different places. And you know, you had to go from here, and then you had to click out to another site to complete a quiz and to get your certificate. Then there was no way for users to save that. Whereas now, they can complete their e-learning and then they can save it. And they always have access to go back and reprint.

Dalia

That sounds like that's going to be really helpful. I know that we have to document our CEUs for our professional standards. But also, if you're a dietitian, you need to keep track of your CEUs and some of us aren't great at saving those as we go. It's going to be nice to have it all in one spot. That's excellent. Is there anything else you wish everyone working in school nutrition understood about the role that professional development plays in how our industry is perceived or just a takeaway that you wish everyone had a handle on?

Toni Vega Aiken

I think one of the things that I wish is that everyone who works in school nutrition, regardless of their role, that they would see themselves as school nutrition professionals. I think that there has been a separation of the people that potentially work in the kitchens and the people that may be work more administratively. To think that, oh, well, they're the professional and I may not necessarily be the professional. I just workin the kitchen. But that's not true. Because everything that they do is so critical. It's critical to the students, to the program, and they are themselves professionals. That's the way we refer to all levels of those working in school nutrition, that they're professionals. And that we hope that the training helps them to feel validated in their roles.

Dalia

That's a really great point. There's so much to learn in all positions. It's like, just because it seems like a physical job, people don't acknowledge that it's an intellectual job as well. And that the training isn't all going to be hands on, there are just so many different facets to working on the front lines, it really makes sense to perceive yourself as a professional because you are a professional if you're working in the kitchen. But I know not everyone sees it that way. So thank you for making that point.

Hi Dr. Powell, thank you so much for coming on with me today. Can you explain what your role with SNA?

Dr. Ashley K. Powell

Certainly, I'm glad to be with you as well today. Thank you so much for roll, I'm moving into the Professional Development Chair position with the School Nutrition Association. So the association has been so supportive of supporting our members and their growth personally through this professional development. Now, the benefit that comes along with that personal development is that you're going to be a better worker in your district, better manager in your district or better director, all those needs that come into the job that you're going to have some growth because of these trainings and modules that you can assist with. So that's kind of where I will be in assisting our members and in their growth personally.

Dalia

So what types of training? Does SNA focus on? Is it all related to the professional development standards that we know are out there from the USDA? Or is it more comprehensive just to completely develop the employee in all aspects?

Dr. Ashley K. Powell

That's right, well, I think the overall goal is to develop the employee, because when you develop the employee, you're going to have just better workers, a better team, better management, and overall, you're serving your kids in a better way. As far as that role with that will come the professional development standards, whenever you're hired for a job and school nutrition, a lot of people don't realize that when you're first hired in a school system, maybe you've come back from another profession, or maybe you've been with your children or whatever your role is how you're entering the workforce, you may have a lot of food service experience. Nonetheless everybody needs some polishing some training, just some new information for learning about the standards for school nutrition. So the professional development standards, professional standards from USDA, are the guidance in the role that we have to complete training hours as a school nutrition professionals. So through SNA, we're offering professional development hours to meet the requirements for those standards. So with that standard each district is going to set what the requirements are, some may have even more requirements, even some states might have more requirements. It is very broad and what we're able to offer, but we have a lot SNA a that we're able to assist people in that planning

Dalia

Were you working in school nutrition before those standards were put in place?

Dr. Ashley K. Powell

Yes, I've been in school nutrition, I believe this be going into my 14th year as a school nutrition professional. And I actually was a teacher as well, for a short time in there. My students called it cooking and sowing but it was really Family Consumer Science. I will tell you, I think that helped me as far as the education world, to be able to look at the teacher side and the role of education there. And then we have the nutrition side there, and how those can merge together to build better programs. And with that comes some training, some training of people being on the same page, sometimes it's food service training, sometimes it's training and what's going on in the classroom, so that you can bring that knowledge so that you're better able to assist students in their academic learning, which is the role. So sometimes it's nutrition education, sometimes its food safety, information, some is just team development, working with people conflict management, all those areas build to create the team members and make professional standards.

Dalia

That's an interesting background that you're bringing to the table. So as an educator, you know that being a lifelong learner is important to your success professionally, and probably also your success in life. What would you say to people who enter school nutrition and feel a little overwhelmed by the standards? Because maybe they weren't into academics when they were younger and they are caught off guard by this feeling that they're in school again? How do you engage someone who is feeling that way? Or how would you explain to them what the benefit is to them personally?

Dr. Ashley K. Powell

Well I would say, when you walk into child nutrition, you will feel overwhelmed at first. And just the first is just recognizing that when you walk into that role, don't run away from it. It's just the challenge that we can work through together. And that's where SNA really comes in, and they're going to help you meet that goal. I will say school nutrition, it's a lot of practical thinking a lot of times, and when you come back and do those kind of learning skills. Toni Vega Aiken does a great job of helping us learn about the different types of learning skills that we have, maybe you're a visual learner, maybe your hands on learner, maybe you love to read and you like that written word to just kind of soak in or maybe you're going to write it. School nutrition does a good job of providing different ways that you could have some of that information brought to you, it might be a video for you, you might prefer to attend a class at a conference. But there's lots of ways SNA provides that information so that the one that is overwhelmed, just hang in there, because SNA is going to help you get to the end.

Dalia

Thank you so much for coming on. I think that's really going to be helpful for people to remember, it is normal to feel a little overwhelmed. There is a learning curve. But there are resources available. And SNA is here to help.

Dr. Ashley K. Powell

That's right and can I just add too when you are overwhelmed and the challenge is there. You will feel so accomplished and you will be an even better worker, individual, mother, father, whatever that role is, employee. When you make that challenge, you're going to feel so successful when you complete those standards. And you will, it's just a matter of time.

Dalia

Hi, Sara, thank you so much for coming on. Can you explain what your role with SNA is?

Sara Gasiorowski

Sure. I am currently the Chair of Public Policy and Legislative Committee for SNA. In that position, I work with the entire committee. The committee consists of representatives from each of the seven SNA regions. We have a state agency representative, an at large representative and also an industry representative. The public policy and legislative committee serves our members in all areas of advocacy. So our role is when we meet at committee days, we start planning our legislative agenda based on the SNA strategic plan and the goals for the year. Then in December, we meet and we draft what's called the position paper. And that position paper really becomes the foundation of SNA's legislative plan for the next year. The information that we use to create the position paper is based on surveying of our members. So all of our members have the opportunity to reply to a survey where they can talk about their legislative priorities in terms of our school nutrition programs. So once that position paper is developed then it is, you know, approved through the SNA Board of Directors and then it is published and we use that at our legislative action conference every spring, where on Tuesday, we always go and charge the hill and do our hill visits.

Dalia

Why is advocacy important for our industry?

Sara Gasiorowski

When you think about the decisions that directors have to make each day or assistant directors or managers, our frontline employees, for the meals that we serve every single day, following procurement regulations processing free and reduced applications. Every bit of that stems back to the regulatory process. Whether it's embedded in the child nutrition reauthorization as law or a USDA regulation. There's not many decisions we make each day that's not based on something coming out of USDA. So advocacy is our vehicle to facilitate change. If we look back at the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010, it developed new meal patterns. Since then, we gone through some regulatory changes that have eased some burdens. So that is all a process and the result of advocacy of our members, communicating concerns to the School Nutrition Association, the public policy and legislative committee, listening to the concerns, crafting position paper, and then our members going on their hill visits to share the concerns. And then finally, Cathy Schuchart and Sherry Layman, from the SNA staff who are up on the hill weekly advocating for us. It's a very multifaceted approach. But when we all think about what the ultimate goal is of serving our children, and having healthy, nutritious meals every day, but also making sure that we as operators can manage these programs, in a way that's not overly burdensome, which it is somewhat right now, this is where advocacy comes in.

Dalia

You mentioned the legislative action conference, who do you think ideally should be attending LAC.

Sara Gasiorowski

The legislative action conference takes place every spring, it is attended by a lot of directors, but I love to see managers attending, even like a frontline employee. Because when you go to LAC, all of a sudden, you kind of start seeing that big picture of how our programs come together. And when we go for the hill visits, you know, somebody who is manager or frontline employee, they have wonderful stories to tell. And that really resonates with our elected officials. So I never want anybody to be discouraged saying, oh, that you know that conferences just for directors, you know, it's not for me. Every conference SNA puts on is for every membership level. There are opportunities for scholarships through SNA to attend LAC. So I don't want that to be a hindrance for somebody to say, oh, I can't go. I know of states that also do scholarships to send members to LAC. It's a wonderful conference. It's fast paced, it's very intense. It's all focused on the position paper. Like I said, it just really helps bring clarity to what that advocacy piece as a part of SNA and for the 58,000 plus members that we serve.

Dalia

For someone who doesn't feel like they're very familiar with how legislation works here in the United States, I know it can be a little complicated. Most of us aren't involved with politics every day. If someone feels intimidated about trying to engage in this process, what would you recommend? Or what would you want somebody feeling that way to know?

Sara Gasiorowski

I think the first thing is, look at how you can get involved at the state level. Every state association has a legislative committee. That is an opportunity to start getting involved with potential state legislative issues, where you can go and advocate right with your state senator or your state representative, it's a little bit more within our comfort zone, you know, that person, your state representative, might very well be somebody in your community that you know. That brings up opportunity to spread the message. I think the other thing they can people can do is invite your elected official to your school district, you can invite a state senator, a state representative, or your congressman, congressperson or your senator. And in that setting, you're kind of more in control of the situation. You're showing them you're teaching them. We have to remember that our elected officials don't know that much about our programs, because they have so many things are trying to understand on a daily basis. It's our job through advocacy to educate them. We are the experts in child nutrition and we need to promote our voice and share our story.

Dalia

That makes sense. What is the difference between PAC and the other area of advocacy, in SNA?

Sara Gasiorowski

Okay, so we have the public policy and legislative committee that we've talked about, but there's kind of a side arm with the advocacy and that is our political action committee or PAC. PAC is the mechanism where we raise funds to provide our SNA a staff the opportunity to attend a function and promote our position paper to our elected officials. We are a very small PAC, when we are compared to other political action committees out there. So every dollar counts, and we are very judicious in how that money is spent. So it might be that there's a breakfast event. And Cathy, might go by yourself or Cathy and Sherry may go to that. It might be a room of maybe 20 people total. They get to meet with the the congress person or the senator and they have just a few minutes to make our pitch. SNA is very well known up on Capitol Hill, we are very respected through these efforts of our SNA government affairs. PAC is just an opportunity to continue to share our voice and have a seat at the table.

Dalia

For people who aren't clear on the scope of the things that we advocate for. Can you clarify what areas have been mentioned on position papers in the past? Is it just meal pattern, sodium limits, or does it extend into other areas?

Sara Gasiorowski

Well, in the position paper, it's always going to be focused on, child nutrition issues. Yes, we had points on the position paper that did deal with meal patterns. We've had a lot lately on reducing the administrative burden, and trying to get relief on all the complexities of our program. The 2019 position paper had a section in there on adequate time for students to eat.

Whatever is on the position paper is what bubbles up from that survey. It's what our members are saying are the important issues to them, that can be resolved through advocacy. So it could be we need more money for commodity funding, or we need you know, that's how we started getting for years we had a need for money for breakfast commodities, now we have $20 million in appropriations for breakfast commodities. That was a three or four year process. That's the thing with advocacy and legislative issues. It's not a sprint. It is a long process. It's constantly move after move, and just getting the word out. And when we start something in three to four years, you know, sometimes we get frustrated, it's not moving fast enough. You have to just understand it is what it is.

Dalia

Thank you so much for coming on. It really sounds like this is an invaluable service to everyone in the community at that there's no other way really to be represented in a meaningful way on the Capitol without advocacy.

Sara Gasiorowski

I agree. Membership is more than just having a member number and going to a conference. Your membership in the School Nutrition Association provides you so many opportunities. It's professional development, its advocacy, it's continuing education opportunities. So we have to always got to look at wow, I get all of this from being an SNA member. We have all these wonderful committees, you know, the PPL committee, the nutrition committee, the professional development committee, all working for these 58,000 plus members to help promote that we are the voice of child nutrition.

Dalia

Thank you so much.

Hey, Stefanie, thank you so much for coming on. Today, I wanted to connect with you to learn more about lateral mentorship, what Next Gen is, and how we can get involved. So what is Next Gen ?

Stefanie Dove

So thanks for having me. Next Gen is something that was an initiative started by SNA. They developed a task force and this was back in 2017 and they called it the Young Professional Task Force. They selected young professional members from each region of the country to be represented and including industry partners as well, because their voices are also important. And so we came together twice a year to talk about some of the topics or the struggles or the challenges with being a young professional or a next gen and coming into school nutrition, whether you are newly hired, or in my case, I'm a second career dietitian. So this was my second school nutrition is my second career path. And so being experienced in the workforce, but still coming into school nutrition as a newbie, and having those conversations and what was really heartbreaking in some of those discussions, was the fact that a lot of YPs in attendance could not name someone who had been a mentor to them. Some felt isolated, whether it was by their state levels, or local levels, or some felt that they had no idea they could get involved with SNA at the . national level as a young professional, they thought that you kind of had to pay your dues, right, or you had to be a director to even be considered for leadership opportunities or to sit on committees or work groups. And so I think that really helped kind of open the doors, and it's the next gens have kind of helped also pave the way of just networking. If you come to a conference like ANC, and you don't know anyone and you're new, a lot of school districts across the country are very small so you may be like a one or two person show. You may not know a lot of people in school nutrition. That's why they had the lounge for Next Gens created so that next gens could come in connect, pick the brains of other people, and really develop some mentorship that way too. We always talk about mentors. Everyone assumes that to have a mentor, they need to be older, right or have more experience. And I'm like, no, because I have some of our high school students who help us with graphic art. And they've sat down with me and shown me how to do some crazy things in Photoshop that I never knew how to do. And so it's more about just being humble and the fact that you don't know everything. As long as you want to learn, it doesn't matter what industry they work in, how old they are, who they are, what their position is, it's just more about learning and developing both personally and professionally.

Dalia

That makes a lot of sense. I was talking to someone who mentioned that now, it's recommended. And of course, this is an across the board. Not everybody knows this. But in some circles where people are really thinking progressively about mentorship, they say you should have someone 10 years younger than you someone in their 20s maybe or below who can help you with new technology, new ways of seeing things that we may be blind to, since we're getting a little older. So that definitely makes sense to start thinking about connecting to all kinds of resources, not just people who are seasoned or vetted for mentorship.

Stefanie Dove

Exactly. I mean, I have someone in our office, Brittany, who I pick her brain on marketing all of the time, because she is 22, a recent college graduate. And she closely resonates with some of our secondary students where we're trying to really focus our marketing. So I sent her stuff and I'm like, well, what do you think about this, does it seemed lame or cheesy? Because while I work in marketing, and I still like to think I'm young and fun. I still I want to make sure it's still relevant. And so you have to be okay, with accepting criticism, or constructive feedback and things of that nature. And so if you think, oh, yeah, I want, I need a mentor. But if you're not willing to accept their feedback that they're going to give you because ultimately, the feedback is there to help you. Then it's kind of a two way street. So you can't say, I want to mentor because I want someone to just tell me, oh, you are great or just keep doing this. Because honestly, I feel like that's actually not helpful at all. Because I think we all self advocate. And so we're thinking we're great, like we're doing a good job. It's when someone gives you constructive criticism on things that you can improve or stepping back and thinking, well, how could I have done this situation better. And that's really where mentors can come into play.

Dalia

It's often really helpful to me to get that guidance from someone who also is fairly new, because the way that they will deliver it to you is different. It feels more like, oh, this is what I learned and I'm excited about it and maybe this could be helpful in your situation versus oh little girl this is how it should be done. You're one of those know nothing millennials, let me help you. So it can be helpful to hear it from someone else who is a beginner and that doesn't necessarily mean someone around the same age. But like you said, it could be someone that had a career change. Someone that acknowledges what a steep learning curve, it is coming into a new industry. It really changes how they share information with you.

Thank you so much for coming on. Can you tell everybody where to find you online?

Stefanie Dove

Absolutely. It's my pleasure. You can follow me @stefaniedoverrdn on Twitter, or @stefaniedover on Instagram. I post a lot of school lunches. I eat school lunch in our schools every single day unless I have a conflict. Because I believe that you can't promote school meals if you don't eat them because it's sending the message that they're good enough for kids, but they're not good enough for those adults who actually prepare the meals. So that is my tip and challenge for everyone to at least eat in your schools. Three days a week.

Dalia

Alright, so now that you've heard a little bit about the benefits, I hope you're ready to seek out more information and initiate your membership or start taking full advantage of the benefits that you already have access to as an SNA member. For more details you can visit www.schoolnutrition.org. I want to extend a big thank you to Diane Pratt-Heavner, Toni Aiken, Dr. Ashley Powell, Sara Gasiorowski and Stefanie Dove for making this episode possible. If you would like the show notes or if you would like a summary of what we discussed in this episode, just visit schoolnutritiondietitian.com and opt in and add yourself to the email list.

See you next week.