Meeting and connecting with other nutrition professionals is a great way to help develop and grow your career in school nutrition. After all, your peers are your best resource to learn new tips and skills, understand best practices, and share success stories. Here are a number of ways you can connect with other school nutrition professionals in your area:
Tradeshows and conferences are one of the easiest ways to meet and network with others. The School Nutrition Association has a presence in every state across the country, and each state holds an annual conference for school nutrition professionals. To view dates and locations of upcoming annual state conferences, click here (if you're not a current SNA member, click here for a list of SNA state association websites).
To get the most out of each conference, be sure to do your homework ahead of time. Before you attend, research the event to identify people you’d like to meet who are attending or speaking – and make a concerted effort to connect with each of them.
Are you unable to attend your state’s SNA conference? This year for the first time, SNA is hosting a Virtual Expo that will be available until April 30th, 2017. Click here to register/enter. Be sure to visit the Networking Lounge where you can connect with your colleagues and industry representatives. And don’t forget to visit the Heartland booth at the expo – we’re available to chat with you live!
Chances are, there are a number of networks or alliances available that align with the goals and priorities of your nutrition program.
For example, does your district participate in a Farm to School program or are you interested in starting one? The National Farm to School Network connects districts with local farmers to provide students with access to healthy, local foods as well as education opportunities like school gardens, cooking lessons and farm field trips. Each state has its own network which offers a variety of resources to district nutrition staff. Visit your state’s farm to school website to read others’ experiences with this program, and even share you own!
Many state associations host a variety of training courses at local chapter events or at regional workshops where you can meet and learn from other nutrition directors and staff in your area. Many of these training courses offer Continuing Education Units (CEUs) that provide professional development and growth experiences.
The software system that your nutrition department uses also likely hosts training sessions. These trainings are not only a great way to gain operational experience, but to also learn tips and best practices from other districts who use your same software system.
While it may not be the same experience as meeting in person, social networks are a great way to virtually connect with other people and associations.
LinkedIn is a powerful tool when it comes to networking. Many districts and associations have setup a LinkedIn profile with discussion boards where you can meet and interact with others. You can even search LinkedIn for topics such as “School Nutrition” to view applicable articles, popular posts, and presentations.
Facebook is of course another great way to find nutrition professionals, but did you know it can also be a useful resource to discuss specifics of school meals? Check out Tray Talk’s Facebook page to learn about new trends in school cafeterias, statistics on children served by school meal programs, and the details on national school nutrition standards.
Connecting with your fellow professionals can be an incredibly valuable investment – it can help you to form meaningful networks, gather constructive feedback, and ultimately, advance your career. Are there other ways you like to connect with your fellow nutrition professionals? Let us know in the comments below!