School nutrition directors, managers and business managers from across the Commonwealth came together at our first in-person Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs Summit since the pandemic on May 24, 2022, as we celebrated Our History and Hope for the Future of School Meals.
They day started with William Bell, Senior Associate Commissioner/ CFO, Center for Administration and Finance, DESE welcoming everyone in attendance. Nicole Good, School Wellness Specialist from DESE and Cathy Wickham, PhD, RD, CND, Assistant Professor at Framingham State University followed with What’s Up with Wellness, where you can get the latest update on the research-based initiatives making wellness accessible in the classroom, at home, and in the community.
Robert Leshin, MPA, Director, Office for Food and Nutrition Programs, DESE and Erin McAleer, President and CEO of Project Bread kicked off our morning keynote addressing Our History and Hope for the Future of School Meals and what lies ahead for school meals and the exciting initiatives that are on the horizon for them. Along came Amanda Venezia, Co-Owner of NxtGen Network and Director of Dining Services, Londonderry School District, NH who was a part of the morning interactive session Bringing the Future into Focus and was the afternoon keynote speaker as well as the host of the Retention Through Attention breakout session discussing her specialty in motivating her team through the power of positivity and engaging them with enthusiasm and passion.
Attendees were intrigued and left captivated by the breakout sessions throughout the summit. Sam Icklan, Director and Chef, Community Nutrition Services, Project Bread, and Natasha Smith, Director of Child Nutrition, Project Bread, hosted Easy Wins to Increase Scratch Cooking. Chef Sam Icklan demonstrated fun and flexible recipes that could be incorporated in school meals where participants were able to sample the recipes being demonstrated.
We also had Plant Forward with Black Beans hosted by Samantha Cowens-Gasbarro, SNS, School Nutrition Consultant/Trainer, Executive Chef, Healthy School Recipes, and Patty Gardner, Chef Instructor, The John C. Stalker Institute. Samantha and Patty showed ways to incorporate USDA black beans in a variety of flavorful ways to impress your students.
Morgan McGhee, MPH, RD, Director, School Nutrition Leadership at FoodCorps and Rebecca Kelley, Massachusetts Program Manager at FoodCorps; assisted by Alissa Haskins, 2nd-year FoodCorps Service Member, School Nutrition Pilot Program, Lowell (am session) and Julia Thomas, 2nd-year FoodCorps Service Member, School Nutrition Pilot Program, Springfield, presented Integrating Equity into School Meals. Participants of this breakout session were able to get hands-on practice and hear from Massachusetts FoodCorps service members on how they use these principles in their local community. FoodCorps presenters also explained their SHIFTING tool which was developed by FoodCorps staff that helps to specify how equity shows up in work and projects.
Lastly, Denise Courtney, MS, RD, SNS, Nutrition Education, Training and School Wellness Coordinator, DESE, moderated a breakout session that discussed ways to explore how to overcome barriers and identify strategies to Building Better Bids, Together.
Thank you to all of our partners for assisting in this year’s summit, our presenters, moderators, panelists, staff and audience for making this Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs Summit 2022 a great experience! You can also check out the presentation files that are now available!