It’s hard to believe it’s already June! School’s out for summer – and the School Nutrition Association’s Annual National Conference (ANC) is right around the corner. I spoke with two SNA representatives about this year’s event – Sara Kilkenny (Director of Meetings) and Vanessa Hayes (Annual National Conference Program Advisor). They gave me the inside scoop on what attendees can expect at ANC 2018!

ANC 2018 - Know Before You Go


The Lowdown

Ready to equip yourselves with – and share – some bright ideas this summer? Look no further than ANC. Held July 9 – 12, 2018 at the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas, this conference gives child nutrition professionals the opportunity to “share bright ideas, learn best practices and illuminate a bold vision for foodservice in K12 schools.” The bright ideas theme was selected for this year’s event for a number of reasons.

“This conference is packed full of all the latest and greatest best practices, new trends, and grand successes,” said Hayes. “Coming to Vegas [for ANC 2018] is not just about the nightlife and fun, but it is about learning!”

“SNA wanted to make sure that we emphasized this conference is all about learning and networking,” said Kilkenny. “[Since the conference is held in Las Vegas], we knew that would be a draw for some people, but the real reasons to attend include the 120+ education sessions, special OpenSpace social learning, the opportunity to meet one’s annual training for professional standards at one time and in one place, the vibrant exhibit hall, and the many opportunities to network.”

Networking is one of the most important parts of conferences. For more tips for effective networking, check out this blog post.

If you’re still struggling to gain your administrators’ buy-in to send you to ANC, be sure to check out SNA’s “Make the Case to Attend” page. This page features the many reasons to attend, a “Dear Supervisor” letter to present to your boss, and even a financial spreadsheet to help you calculate the cost of attending.

Innovative Education Sessions

SNA takes pride in its innovative and interactive education sessions. Attendees are encouraged to attend these education sessions that cover a wide range of topics, delivered by school nutrition subject matter experts. This year, the conference has a particular emphasis on navigating the intricacies of procurement, innovative ideas for menu planning, team building and a special focus on training for school chefs. There is truly something for everyone!

Want to learn more about how you can connect with your Generation Z students – and their millennial parents? Be sure to join the education session “Marketing Your Cafeteria to Generation Z” – held Monday, July 9 at 9:15 a.m. in Breakers E/F on the second floor of the convention center. For a little preparation before the conference, be sure to download PrimeroEdge’s free Marketing to Gen Z eBook!

Star-Studded General Sessions

SNA is excited to welcome Gayle King as the opening general session speaker for ANC 2018. King is the co-anchor of CBS This Morning, and is a long-time best friend of 40 years with Oprah Winfrey. SNA will also welcome Chef Jeff Henderson to deliver Thursday’s general session. Henderson will “inspire attendees with his emotional story of redemption from the streets to the stove”.

The Exhibit Hall (of Epic Proportions)

The exhibit hall at ANC is no ordinary trade show – it’s the largest in school nutrition! This year, ANC will host 880 booths from 300+ companies, showcasing “culinary trends and cutting-edge food, beverage, supply, equipment and service solutions for school nutrition operations.”

“Our members can find whatever they are looking for to grow their programs…the latest and greatest,” said Hayes. “There are miles and miles (aisles and aisles!) of food, supplies, equipment, uniforms and small wares.”

While you’re in the exhibit hall, be sure to stop by Booth 953 to test out PrimeroEdge’s latest software solutions, ask questions, or just say hello! After browsing the “miles and miles of aisles”, you’ll likely be tired…so take a load off in one of SNA’s networking lounges, sponsored by PrimeroEdge!

  • Directors LoungeRoom: Jasmine E/F
  • State Agency LoungeRoom: Jasmine G/H
  • Next Gen Lounge – Room: Palm F

Go Mobile!

Did you know ANC has its very own mobile app?

“The app is an alternative to the conference program guide,” said Kilkenny. “Since many people rely on their devices, we wanted to ensure we met that need. The mobile app allows people to create a customized schedule, view maps of the meeting space and exhibit hall, flag exhibitors they want to meet with, evaluate sessions, and so much more.”

To download the app, search “SNA Events” on the App Store (for Apple devices) or Google Play (for Android devices). Make sure to access the conference WiFi, with the password primeroedge!

ANC First-Timers

ANC can seem overwhelming for many first time attendees – I know it was for me (as I discussed in a previous blog)! And Hayes agrees.

“I wished someone would have told me how big [the conference is] and how many people actually attend!” she said. “Please make sure you plan your day. There is so much to see and do. Be prepared for the weather, bring extra money for evening attractions, and bring an open mind. And bring comfortable shoes!”

“I love that Vanessa suggested bringing an open mind,” said Kilkenny. “I would also add that there is a first-timers session on Monday at 9:15 a.m., one should come with a willingness to share, as the best learning usually comes from each other. I would definitely bring a cardigan or jacket, as I am always cold in convention centers.”

Kilkenny also suggests walking around before the conference begins, to get a better idea of where everything is located. This year’s session rooms are larger than usual, but if there is a session you really can’t miss, she suggests arriving early. Kilkenny also mentioned a few exciting changes and new offerings for ANC 2018 that attendees – both newbies and veterans – won’t want to miss.

  • Culinary Skills Lab – Stop by the culinary lab to walk through four mini-demonstrations, including thermometer calibration, fruits and veggies prep, knife skills, and weights and measures. Each session will be presented by members of SNA’s Chefs Task Force.
  • Open Space Sessions – Tested and rated highly from this year’s SNIC in New Orleans, SNA will offer Open Space Sessions: impromptu discussions conducted in 20-minute intervals. Check the app to find out what discussions are happening and how you can participate.

Experience Las Vegas

Each year, SNA wraps up ANC with a bang: with a spectacular closing event. This year, the closing event is two showings of Michael Jackson ONE by Cirque du Soleil. This show is described by SNA as “an electrifying fusion of acrobatics, dance and visuals that reflects the dynamic showmanship of the King of Pop.” Tickets will be available for pick-up at SNA’s registration desk starting Wednesday, July 11 from 4:30 – 6:00 p.m., and will re-open on Thursday morning from 6:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Tickets are first come-first serve, but since it is an intimate theater, Kilkenny explains that there are no “bad” seats.

Want more exciting (and inexpensive) things to do while you’re in Vegas? Check out this list from SNA! For more ideas, you can also check out

We’ll See You There!

We can’t wait to see you in Vegas! We hope you’ll attend many of the education sessions offered, including “Marketing Your Cafeteria to Generation Z”. Join us on Monday, July 9 at 9:15 a.m in Breakers EF on Level 2 of the convention center for this fun and interactive session. Also, don’t forget to swing by booth 953 in the exhibit hall on July 10 – 12.