The Ultimate Guide to ANC 2018

It’s our favorite time of year at Meals Plus! The School Nutrition Association’s Annual National Conference 2018 is just around the corner. From July 9-12 industry professionals from all over the country will head to the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas for four days of sharing bright ideas, learning best practices, and illuminating a bold vision for K12 school food service! Whether it’s your first time, or you’re a dedicated annual attendee, we have everything you need to know to get ready.

Getting Started

First thing’s first—the Opening Session. This year, co-anchor of CBS This Morning, Gayle King will be starting things off! She will be bringing refreshing authenticity along with her dogged persistence to her assignments. After her keynote speech, she will be signing copies of her book, Note to Self: Inspiring Words from Inspiring People. She isn’t the only star studded speaker. On Thursday Chef Jeff Henderson will be sharing his journey from the streets to the stove, along with some real-life strategies to help you achieve your dreams. After his session, he will also be signing copies of his books. Check out SNA’s website for more information on the general sessions.

Gaining Bright Ideas

Whether you’re looking to develop new skills or enhance existing knowledge, you can customize a schedule of educational sessions just for your needs! There will be a Culinary Skills Lab, sessions on promoting your program, and information on navigating the procurement puzzle. You can view all education session here as well as download a tracking tool that provides an easy way to keep up with your training hours during the conference.

Exploring the Exhibit Hall

The most exciting part of ANC for us at Meals Plus is the Exhibit Hall! This year there will be 880 booths showcasing culinary trends in food, beverage, supply, equipment, and service solutions. No matter what you’re looking for to grow your program, you can find it in the miles of aisles! While you’re there, be sure to stop to learn about how we can help turn your cafeteria into the Smartest Lunchroom. For digital menu solutions, visit School Nutrition and Fitness at book #1659. To learn more about our integrated cafeteria management solutions visit Meals Plus at booth #1065! Whether you’re a customer or not, if you are looking for new ways to improve your program, we’d love to chat with you!

Making Connections through Special Events

The fun doesn’t stop once you leave the educational sessions or the exhibit hall. There are even more events that offer a little something for everyone! If you’re a first-time attendee, you should definitely go to the First-Timers Session to guide you in the right direction before you get started. This year is all about networking, so be sure to attend the New Connections Reception on Monday. Once you’ve gained all of these new ideas and connections, celebrate at the closing event, Michael Jackson ONE by Cirque du Soleil, an electrifying fusion of acrobatics and dance in honor of the King of Pop. Learn more about all of the special events offered at ANC here.

Take on ANC from your Smartphone!

ANC just went mobile! You can download SNA’s 2018 ANC mobile app to stay connected while on site. You can build your own agenda, evaluate education sessions, navigate the conference center, message other attendees and join discussion groups, and receive notifications on schedule changes and program alerts. The app can be downloaded on iTunes or Google Play.

Experiencing Las Vegas Outside of the Conference Doors

Even though our first priority at ANC is to learn and network, it’s also an exciting opportunity to experience Sin City! Check out this list for some of the Best Things to Do in Las Vegas. You may also want to check out SNA’s list of inexpensive suggestions for exploring Vegas.

We are so excited to see you in Vegas! We hope you gain valuable information to step up your lunch program. Don’t forget to stop by booth #1065 to visit Meals Plus and booth #1659 to visit School Nutrition and Fitness in the exhibit hall July 10-12. Learn more information about ANC 2018 here.

Wake Up to School Breakfast!

nutritional_analysis_software_2National School Breakfast Week (NSBW) is right around the corner! To celebrate, every day that week (March 7-11, 2016) we will share a breakfast recipe from our Meals Plus Child Nutrition Cookbook here on our blog. So be sure to follow our blog, and for ideas to celebrate NSBW in your school cafeterias, visit the School Nutrition Association’s website.

Do you have a recipe that’s increased breakfast participation in your cafeterias? Email it to us and we will feature it on our blog!

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School Nutrition Association’s ANC 2015 Wrap-Up

Another successful year at the School Nutrition Association’s Annual National Conference!

Members of the Meals Plus Team were on-hand at the SNA’s Annual National Conference last week, including Child Nutrition Operations Consultant, Cynthia Sevier, SNS. She wore many hats at ANC 2015 – attending general sessions, education sessions and was at the Meals Plus Booth during the exhibit hall hours handing out our collectible Salt Lake City lapel pins.

sna anc 2015Cynthia attended Sunday’s “Building a Financially Sustainable Meal Program” Education Session, where presenters including Jeremy West, CDM, SNS, of Weld County School District 6 (CO), illustrated how extremely important it is to know where your revenue comes from. Generating income outside of the standard breakfast and lunch hours is imperative. He recommended to “tell your story” with stakeholders, who are not only your students, but parents and district administrative staff as well. Don’t assume they know about your child nutrition program. If appropriate, share your business plan with them to optimize your department’s success. (For an in-depth look at the top indicators of your child nutrition department’s financial health, download our free white paper, “Fiscal Survival 101: Financial Success in the Era of the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act.“)

Menu boards were also a popular topic of conversation at ANC 2015. Obviously they are used as a dynamic menu board in the cafeteria, but they can be used for so much more. School announcements, themes such as homecoming week, farm-to-school promotions, nutritional information and advertising new menu items are all appropriate topics for your menu boards. Remember to keep them current and there is no need to overcrowd them. Simplicity is key. (Do you use video menu boards in your cafeterias? Check out the Meals Plus menu board interface!)

And of course there are two major items in effect this year for our industry: Child Nutrition Reauthorization and Professional Standards for School Nutrition Professionals. There are lots of free resources available to make these processes easier, including a Food Research and Action Center Child Nutrition Reauthorization webinar and a Training Tracking Tool from the USDA. Follow our blog and e-newsletter (subscribe to our newsletter here) for more free resources to help with reauthorization and professional standards in the coming months.

Thank you to the School Nutrition Association, the city of Salt Lake City, and everyone who helped make ANC 2015 a success! We can’t wait to see you all in San Antonio next year!

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SNIC 2015 Was a Huge Success!

SNIC_2015As always, the SNA School Nutrition Industry Conference was an enormous success. Meals Plus Account Manager Joy Miller and Child Nutrition Operations Consultant Cynthia Sevier, SNS were on-hand for the event in Phoenix, AZ and enjoyed meeting with other industry representatives and school nutrition directors. This year’s General Sessions focused on embracing change through collaborative partnerships and creative marketing. (Speaking of creative marketing – have you downloaded a copy of “The 5 P’s of Promoting Your School Meal Program”?) SNIC speakers also addressed various K-12 child nutrition issues, including sustainability and the green restaurant movement, “Farm-to-School” and “Farm-to-Fork” initiatives, and the creation of school gardens.

Thank you to the School Nutrition Association for hosting the event! We look forward to next year.

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Lunchroom Promotion: National Puzzle Day

school nutrition associationWe want to help you increase participation in your cafeterias this year, and one way to market your child nutrition program is with awareness weeks and months and promotional days, like National Puzzle Day, which is January 29, 2015. The School Nutrition Association’s Promotional Calendar is full of great ideas – here are just some of them that will help Puzzle Day generate buzz for your cafeteria:

  • Bring puzzles for the cafeteria tables or at special stations for kids to try
  • Give menu items fun names like Jigsaw Juice and Puzzle Pitas
  • Put stickers underneath some of the lunch trays and give the winning students games or puzzles as a prize. You can even see if a local arcade will provide free passes or tokens as prizes as well.
  • Have kids guess the number of treats or food items in a jar.

You can also take advantage of free printable puzzles online! Print them for every student that goes through your lunchline. For more promotional ideas, check out the SNA Promotional Calendar and sign up for our e-newsletters.

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Lunchroom Promotion: Explore Your Options during Geography Awareness Week

increasing participation in lunchroomEvery school year, the School Nutrition Association lives up to its Vision of being an “…authority and resource for school nutrition programs.” They are a resource for child nutrition directors across the county by offering lots of easy-to-access resources, including their Promotional Calendar. By acknowledging awareness days, weeks, months and holidays, you can generate interest in what’s going on in your lunchrooms.

For example, Geography Awareness Week (November 16-22) is an excellent opportunity to not only try out foods from other countries or across the US, but decorate your lunchroom. The SNA suggests hanging eye-catching maps (the National Geographic Society is an excellent resource for these) or even ask geography quiz questions in the lunchline and award small prizes to the winners. If your cafeteria participates in Geography Awareness Week, tell us about it and we will share your story on our blog!

For more tips on promoting your child nutrition department, subscribe to our e-newsletter and keep an eye out for our next white paper, “The Five P’s of Promoting Your Child Nutrition Program: Product, Placement, Promotion, Price and People,” which will be available for download this winter! Click here to download any of our other free resources today.

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Increase Participation by Celebrating National School Lunch Week

NSLWNational School Lunch Week is October 13-17, 2014 and the School Nutrition Association has everything you need to promote your child nutrition program! Increase participation in your lunchroom with the help of their NSLW Tool Kit, which is filled with tips for a successful NSLW, social media assistance such as buy Instagram likes, celebration ideas, PR tips and much more.

Visit their website for even more resources, including official NSLW merchandise and downloadable NSLW graphics that you can use on your menus, tray liners, newsletters, etc. And don’t forget October 15th, 2014 is National Take Your Parents to Lunch Day, which is another great opportunity to increase participation!

DID YOU KNOW? According to a 2013 survey of SNA members, 80% of NSLW participants saw an increase of student participation after recognizing NSLW in their lunchrooms.

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The Meals Plus Team is Shipping Up to Boston For the SNA Annual National Conference

SNA Annual National Conference 2014

There is no better time to visit Boston than July; the month known for its patriotism, summer dog days, and the SNA Annual National Conference. The Meals Plus Team is traveling to Boston to attend this year’s conference, which takes place July 13-16.

Be sure to visit the team at booth 1369 to learn about our cafeteria management system and our new PowerSchool Connector! They will be glad to answer any questions and offer a free demo of the system. Be sure to check out Meals Plus’ Facebook and Twitter page for Tweets, updates, and pictures of the conference!

The Meals Plus Team can’t wait to exhibit all of the new improvements and features at the SNA Annual National Conference this year! We’ll see you there!Cafeteria_nutrition_systems

National School Breakfast Week is Back!

NSBW 2014Once again it’s time to expand your breakfast program! This year’s National School Breakfast Week begins March 3rd and its theme is “Take Time for School Breakfast”.  The goal of NSBW is to promote your school breakfast program to parents and students as a healthier, more convenient, and time saving option. Whether your school decides to take the traditional breakfast in the cafeteria, breakfast in the classroom, or grab and go route, the School Nutrition Association and Meals Plus hope you have a successful NSBW!

What are your plans to improve your breakfast participation? Tell us about them and we will feature you on our website!cafeteria_K-12_promotion

School Nutrition Employee Week

This year’s School Nutrition Employee Week begins May 5th and is a great way to acknowledge all of the hard work of your cafeteria staff! The School Nutrition Association started SNEW as a way to remind everyone that these hardworking professionals are super heroes that deserve recognition, and this year they are adding a fun twist to the festivities.

The SNA has partnered with the author of the “Lunch Lady” book series, Jarrett J. Krosoczka, and Random House for its first annual School Lunch Hero Day on May 2, 2014. They are providing free downloadable banners and sharing stories of School Lunch Heroes to honor school lunch staff across the country. You can also follow them on Pinterest!

Want to acknowledge members of your staff who improve the lunchroom? Email us and we will share their story! Cafeteria_employee_management