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News & Action Items: Nutrition & Legislative

LAC 2016: Inspiring and Empowering the SNA of Massachusetts

Tuesday, April 26, 2016   (0 Comments)

LAC 2016; Inspiring and Empowering the SNA of Massachusetts

By: Michelle Babin RD, LDN, SNS

As a young professional in the school nutrition field, truly understanding the significance of my work has been somewhat difficult to envision.  Personally, I have gotten so wrapped up in all the paperwork, implementation of ever-changing regulations, personnel issues and everything else that comes with running a school nutrition program that I’ve lost sight of the true purpose of my job. Having the opportunity to attend the 2016 Legislative Action Conference in Washington, DC was exactly what I needed to reignite the passion inside me.

First, I would like to sincerely thank the SNA of Massachusetts for selecting me as the 2016 First Timer’s Legislative Action Conference Grant recipient.  The SNA of MA has provided soo many incredible opportunities to increase and improve my knowledge, skills and networking opportunities for which I am incredibly thankful. Attending LAC was extremely beneficial in that it provided a new outlook on the significance of our profession while truly inspiring and empowering all of us.  This conference was quite unique, in that it was organized in such a way as to prepare us with the necessary skills and knowledge to successfully bring our voices to ‘The Hill’ on the last day. The first two days were full of break-out and general sessions covering a variety of topics such as updates from the DOE & USDA, evaluating the current and future political state of our nation, critically analyzing SNA’s position paper and talking points, as well as tips and tricks on how to successfully “charge The Hill”. By the time we were scheduled to meet with our state congressmen/women, representatives, etc. I was feeling very prepared and empowered, but still a little nervous! 

This was a completely new experience for me and with that comes a lot of nerves and anxiety. The SNA of MA team was incredible in organizing all of our appointments, providing extremely thorough packets that included anything and everything you could want to know about our congressmen/women, and ensuring us “first-timers” were comfortable and prepared throughout the whole conference.  I was fortunate to meet with Congressmen McGovern, Moulton and Keating. Our appointment with Congressman McGovern was my first in-person introduction to the world of politics and was very eye-opening. Our meeting went very well as McGovern is very perceptive to our needs in Massachusetts and whole-heartedly supports the SNA and school nutrition as a whole.

Next, a group of us met with Congressman Keating who also provided his support to the SNA and gave us a little insight as to why the House of Representatives had stalled on their portion of the Child Reauthorization Act.  Lastly, two others, and myself walked over to our appointment with Congressman Moulton. While waiting outside of his office, Congressman Moulton actually came walking down the hall returning from a vote and on his way to another meeting where we were able to intercept him briefly. He was gracious enough to give us a few minutes of his time and allowed us to briefly explain our main position paper points while providing some valuable feedback and support. After our brief meeting with him, we were able to spend some quality time with his Legislative Assistant who showed some real interest in us. In a matter of hours, I was fully engulfed into the legislative process and met with some very influential people for our state…who would have thought?!

Overall, this was an incredible experience and one I hope to attend again in the near future. Although it may seem like we may not be making a huge impact within our own districts, collaboratively we are actually changing the lives of millions of children one meal at a time!

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