K-12 Blog

April 2013 National Leadership Conference (NLC) – Savannah, GA

Posted: May 9, 2013

A Message from Your Industry Representative

Dear Industry and Patron Members –
The National Leadership Conference (NLC) held two weeks ago in Savannah, Ga., was truly a great event in so many ways. To see the passion of the incoming state leaders, the Future Leaders and industry members was awesome.

Industry had a Partnership Forum on Thursday that exceeded my expectations. We got into the issues and concerns right out of the gate. The first topic up was “State Conferences—Exhibits” and what’s wrong with them and what’s working. The conversation was honest and full of respectful candor on the problems that we all face today, such as finite budgets and the lagging economy in the face of the desire to reach the market through different channels. We spent three hours in deep discussion on this topic and filled up six pages of the flip chart with the good, the bad and the ugly. Among the comments shared were a recommendation not to have breakout sessions up against exhibit hours, a question about the need for multiple days of exhibits, a suggestion not to have exhibits start right after breakfast and a question about how we attract decision-makers to attend the exhibits.

Now that we have addressed these and other comments and recommendations, what is the next step? An ad hoc task force is being assembled from those in attendance with the goal of developing best practices for state conference exhibits. There will be a panel of industry members discussing these at the Annual National Conference (ANC) on Sunday, July 14 at 1:15 pm. We also will be preparing to present these best practices at the state presidents meeting at ANC and have them included in the State President Handbook.

Another big positive at NLC was the inclusion of industry members from state advisory boards, who offered great local insight and were present for our session on “Working With Your Industry Advisory Boards.” Also in attendance were many state executive directors and incoming presidents. The conversation was very engaged as we discussed best practices on how to assemble a vibrant, interactive IAB.

This conference provides great strides in advancing our partnership with SNA and our collective desires to make our relationship much more fulfilling. The foundation of that relationship will always be open, honest and respectful communication.

The highlight of the conference was the announcement of Patti Montague, CAE, as the new CEO of the School Nutrition Association. Most recently our acting CEO, Patti has always exhibited those qualities of a great passionate leader during her tenure at SNA. She has always been focused on what our membership and industry want. It was a great day when the announcement was made.

As we head into the end of this school year and the flurry of state conferences and ANC in Kansas City, I ask all of you to ask yourself a few questions. What is your legacy? Are you making a difference? What can I do to help the child nutrition programs in our country? This world is looking for those people who want to make it a better place, and there isn’t a better place to put your energy than working for the health of our kids. If you want to be more involved, just raise your hand and step forward.

Thanks for all you do!

Gary Vonck
KeyImpact Sales & Systems
SNA Industry Representative

Published in – Industry Insider: News from SchoolNutrition.org Vol. 11, No. 5 – May 9, 2013

About the Author:


Gary Vonck

VP - Education Division

Gary Vonck has been with KeyImpact since 2007, adding to an impressive 40-year foodservice career. His knowledge and passion for child nutrition are unsurpassed. Gary oversees the Education Division, which includes sales, bid, and commodity teams across the entire nation.

Gary is an active member of the SNA and was the first and only broker/agency representative on the School Nutrition Association’s Industry Advisory Board, as the appointed Industry Representative, in 2008 and again 2014. Gary has also served on numerous SNA Task Forces and co-chaired several SNA events. Gary was also on the NSFMI national advisory council. In January 2013, Gary was awarded the Silver Friend of Child Nutrition FAME Award.

Gary Vonck is based in Illinois and can be reached at gvonck@kisales.com.