FRAC On the Move is a series in which we follow our researchers, experts, and analysts all over the country as they connect with other advocates to end hunger.
More than 6,500 school nutrition professionals, industry members, and allied organization representatives attended the School Nutrition Association’s 70th Annual National Conference last week in San Antonio, Texas. This was my second year attending and I was joined by one of my FRAC colleagues. In the exhibit hall and at education sessions, we caught up with longstanding partners and made new friends among nutrition directors, food service professionals, state agencies, staff from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and representatives from other organizations across the country that are dedicated to child nutrition.
I was pleased to co-host a session with Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom: “A CN Director, a Teacher and a Principal Walk into a Bar: A Discussion with the Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom.” In speed dating fashion, the audience fired questions about implementing breakfast in the classroom and the speakers gave their perspectives and advice.
A key take-away from the discussion was to develop broad and robust support in the school district. This is a critical foundation on which to build a breakfast in the classroom program. There are myriad stakeholders who come from different places and frames of thought on how a breakfast program should run. Getting buy-in from all stakeholder groups will prevent the breakfast program from appearing to being unilaterally driven and ignoring the concerns of those affected.
Related to this is to be sure to involve the entire team from the start. This ensures that everyone agrees on principles, policies, and operations. While agreement can be contagious, so can disagreement. This tactic helps grow support.
Along with advice, there were success stories. One principal shared how they turned a breakfast in the classroom program into a student ambassador program. By involving students, they let them share some responsibilities. When students see their effect on a program, they feel a sense of ownership while they develop leadership skills.
At FRAC’s booth in the exhibit hall, many stopped by to express their gratitude for all of FRAC’s work on school meals and how often they use FRAC’s resources, such as FRAC’s new searchable Community Eligibility Provision database and other school meals publications. Additionally, many asked what else they can do to help us #stoptheblock — the House Child Nutrition bill creating a three-state block grant. This was music to our ears, and I can say we are more energized than ever.
FRAC’s work depends on the experiences of those who are on the ground. Their strategies and lessons, such as those shared with us at this conference, inform and reinforce FRAC’s guidance. With every conversation, we learn something new, and get new ideas on how to expand FRAC’s work. I look forward to next year and expect it to be as educational and useful as this year’s conference.