Description: Dr. Josephine Martin served as the National Food Service Management Institute’s first executive director from 1991-1996. Dr. Jeanette Phillips served as the Institute’s associate director until her retirement in 1997. She served as interim executive director from 2002-2003.
Beth King: It is February 1, 2005. I am Beth King and I am here with Dr. Josephine Martin and Dr. Jeanette Phillips. Dr. Martin, would you tell us about how the idea for the [National Food Service Management] Institute got started?
Josephine Martin: Beth, I would be delighted to tell you about it. It was so exciting and it is exciting to be back on the campus of Ole Miss and to see what has happened since the idea, the birth of the idea of the Institute came into being. As I recall, I was a part of a group of Southeast Region state directors meeting informally in the mountains of North Carolina one cold winter weekend. We were brainstorming about what the needs of the child nutrition program would be in the future. And one of the people, after many conversations, said, “What we really need is to have an institute. You know, McDonald’s has started an institute just to train nutrition people who work for McDonald’s, food people who work for McDonald’s. That’s what we need in the child nutrition programs.” Well, that idea was tossed around and we laughed about McDonald’s U for several years. But then, when I was president of the American School Food Service Association, I had the opportunity to help to plan a seminar, a long-range planning seminar for the American School Food Service Association. It was held in Vail, Colorado, in the fall of 1976. And at that conference one of the workgroups came up with the idea, I don’t know how they happened to; it could have been because of the group that was set aside for that particular topic, came up with the idea that what was needed by child nutrition programs was a national, they called it a national food institute to do education, research, development, and experimentation. So that is how it really got started. The concept was started there at the long-range seminar in Vail, Colorado. It was called the “Vision of Vail.”
BK: And that was in the fall of 1976?
JM: Yes, that was 1976. But then we had a lot of financial problems in school nutrition programs in the late 70s and in the early 80s, and ASFSA was pretty much working on just trying to save the programs. It was not until 1987 that ASFSA did put in their legislative program that they would ask Congress for funds to do a feasibility study to see if there needed to be a national food service management institute to be located in Mississippi. And that’s how it all started.
BK: Dr. Phillips, how did the Institute come to be at the University of Mississippi?
Jeanette Phillips: That’s a long story, Beth. But in following what Dr. Martin said, they formed this committee that was called the “Vision of Vail” for the Institute. And Dr. Martin was on that committee. In that structure of that committee and planning for the feasibility study, it was sent to the IHL Board and universities in Mississippi were able to participate if they wanted to have the institute or if they wanted to be on the committee to visit. And the University of Mississippi certainly did want to be a part of that. We had been doing child nutrition education for about six years prior to that time in the state. So we were very interested in what you were trying to do and we certainly did want the Institute to come to the University of Mississippi. Tremendous cooperation between the people here at the University of Mississippi and part of the team, Dr. Martin mentioned that she was on this group of people, Eileen Mathews from Wisconsin was the chair of the feasibility study, and she visited here. She visited other universities in Mississippi and we had a marvelous cooperation between all the faculty, all the staff, and all the people, so we were very fortunate with the collaborations of congressmen and everybody for the University of Mississippi to have the Institute. The headquarters was established at the University of Mississippi and the research division was established at the University of Southern [Mississippi], so we are a cooperation working together for a whole institute. Many people were very involved in that Beth, and a lot of people on this campus that are not here anymore, but many that are here, will remember the feasibility study. I want to say something on what Dr. Martin had said. This committee prior to this had established a framework for the establishment of the Institute, and we had that very much outlined before the Institute began. I guess in 1989 it was funded and we began. I am sorry, I am skipping ahead, but that is some of the history and the fast history of it and how Dr. Martin was in on the beginning of it and then came to us as the first executive director.
JM: And Beth, I would like to jump back to one of the things about the early beginnings of it. Dr. Allene Vaden was Dean of Home Economics at the University of Southern Mississippi when ASFSA proposed to ask Congress for funding for the feasibility study. ASFSA asked Dr. Vaden to meet with the Mississippi Congressional delegation and talk about all that Mississippi had to offer and what the Institute would bring to Mississippi. We can never be grateful enough to the members of the Mississippi Congressional delegation for what they did to see that the feasibility study was funded, ultimately that the legislation was passed, and that full funding came for the, I won’t say “full funding,” but that funding came for the Institute. The Congressional delegation has been absolutely wonderful.
JP: And continues to be.
JM: And continues to be.
BK: Let’s go back to the very early times of the Institute, before actually the Institute was, and you had just gotten the funding, you heard that you had the funding, and you were going to have this Institute at the University of Mississippi. Well, what did you do? How did you know how to start?
JP: I am not sure we knew how to start. We just started, Beth. Mr. [Jim] Reeves had been working for Continuing Education and this is the mechanism with which we were doing the child nutrition programs throughout the state. Mr. Reeves came to be the first employee of the Institute. And he just began. And we began to think about what we really needed, and of course, what we really needed was an executive director. We did searches for the executive director. We had a secretary and Mr. Reeves, and those of us who were giving time to the Institute. I think that was, down the road, we asked Dr. Martin if she would come. She had had experience in Georgia in the school food service and we’d asked her to come to be the executive director. And she was not at that time ready to do that. So we moved along a little bit, and then later she agreed to come and to be our executive director. Everything had to be established, Beth. We had to establish how we operated, the cooperation with USDA, what our role and their roles would be. There were so many things of which we were, had no background to do and just by trial and error, and people who had had experience, we worked with them. Of course, all the time, the University was so very, very helpful and cooperative. Dr. Martin came as executive director, well, you tell them, Dr. Martin.
JM: I came in 1991. I had just retired from the State Department of Education in Georgia and really thought I wanted to go out and just have fun and do all those things I wanted to. When I was first asked if I would consider coming to the Institute, I thought, “I don’t want to work full-time. I want to stay in Atlanta. I want to be with the boys, the three boys. I want to watch them grow up. If I am working full-time I won’t be able to do that.” But finally, I thought about it, and it seemed to be such a wonderful challenge, and since the idea had been conceived back in, I was part of the birth of it back in the 70s. I thought, “Oh, it would be such a challenge. I don’t know what I would do.” When you say, “What did you do?” and I thought, “What would I do?” When I came down for an interview the search committee actually asked me to lay out plans for what I would do or how I would see the Institute being developed throughout the nation, and that was quite a challenge to put that together. But I did and it was a wonderful experience. I think one of the things that was helpful to Dr. Phillips and certainly to me while I was here was that the feasibility study that Dr. Phillips has referred to was so comprehensive. They laid out the structure, the qualifications of everyone who should be employed by the Institute: the executive director, the education and training director, the research director, the technology transfer director. So that was a tremendous help to have that framework to get started.
JP: Even the organizational chart. Everything was, they had placed in that, which meant you didn’t have to start at the very beginning.
BK: You used that as a framework for getting things going?
JM: It was just a wonderful framework. It was really the architecture you could say of the NFSMI program to be established, and that was just a great help. But I came in 1991, and I was really needing to take a month’s vacation before I came down here. Dr. Phillips and Carolyn Hopkins were working on a brochure for the Institute, and I remember I was down at Daytona Beach and I think it was Carolyn who called me and said, “Dr. Martin, we have this brochure. Now we are going to send it to you and we want you to look at it and edit it while you are there.”
JP: I had forgotten about that.
JM: I was sitting on the beach in Daytona Beach, still unemployed by the Institute, editing the brochure-to-be.
JP: That sounds like Carolyn.
JM: That sounds like Carolyn. She didn’t give up. She was such a wonderful employee and so committed to the Institute there in the early days. Well, throughout and still is committed to the Institute.
BK: You’ve talked about when you started as executive director. What was your biggest challenge when you were executive director?
JM: I think there were, I won’t say there was one big challenge, and I think I would probably identify maybe three challenges, and these are rather global challenges. The legislation that was passed indicated that the Institute would be headquartered at the University of Mississippi and operated in coordination or cooperation with the University of Southern Mississippi. It was a challenge to think about managing an institute whose personnel would actually be employed by two universities under two sets of organizational rules and regulations and how you would meld those, the personnel from two major institutions into one team operating under different structures. So it was a challenge, it was an institutional challenge here in Mississippi because it was so important to have this institute recognized not as something going on at USM and something going on at Ole Miss but to have it recognized as a national institute.
JP: So we traveled to Jackson to meet that need and that worked out really well for everybody.
JM: Every month the staff traveled to Jackson from USM and from Ole Miss to plan together and to work together and I think we did have a great team working together. That was one challenge. The second challenge, I think, was the realization that the authorization for the Institute was to expire in 1994, so we only had four years, or three years at that time, to demonstrate that there really was a need, and that the Institute could function and provide a valuable service in improving the operation of child nutrition programs across America. And the entire team, the NFSMI team put their shoulders to the wheel and they said, “We are going to make it work.” And so everybody worked together because we knew we had a brief span of time to demonstrate to the Congress, and we kept, we tried to keep our Congressional delegation very well informed. Of course, we always worked under the direction of the Chancellor of the University and the Vice Chancellor to whom we reported. They were very much kept informed of what we were doing and they wanted us to keep the Congressional delegation informed of what we were doing. Every time we got a new BLT or a new brochure or an annual report, a copy of that report went to the Congressional offices so they would know that we were doing something. That was the second challenge. And then the third challenge was staffing, and I really wouldn’t say that these are in the order of priority, because your personnel is the most important resource that you have. It was the personnel that made, it was the staff that really created a need for a national institute and it was demonstrated in those first four years because in 1994 the permanent funding and permanent legislation was provided for the Institute. So those are my three big ones. Now I could tell you about a lot of little challenges, but those were the global challenges that the team faced. And it was a team. It wasn’t a one-person, it wasn’t a two-person operation; it was a team operation and everybody made it work.
BK: Thanks. It was intense for a while, but we could all feel like we were a part of it.
JP: Well, you’ll remember that, who would want to leave a permanent position and come to an institute until the permanent authorization? Those were real problems that I felt in hiring and getting people to be committed to the Institute without any permanency in it.
JM: Oh, and Dr. Phillips, do you remember when, well, you had already employed a research director, and we had an education and training director. But at that point we did not have a technology transfer director. So we did a national search for a technology transfer director. This PhD from somewhere out there came to interview for the technology transfer director and I think when he came on the campus and he looked at the Home Management House, and we were in the Home Management House, the whole Institute was in that little house. When he looked at that, he had come to Ole Miss thinking he would find a multi-story plate-glass building, and when he saw where we were and where he would be working, I think we never heard from that man again. That was just one of the funny things about trying to bring staff to the Institute.
JP: Well, it was stability, you know. It was really difficult to leave a permanent job.
JM: Yes. We didn’t have a building. We didn’t have permanent funding, and all we could say was, “We are here until 1994.” But that was one of the funnies.
BK: Dr. Martin, you mentioned the term “BLT.” Would both of you talk about the first BLT or “Breakfast-Lunch Training” program?
JM: Oh, Dr. Phillips, you have to tell them how the BLT started.
JP: One of the first meetings that we had after these two boards had been placed, we had a meeting in Memphis, and Shirley Watkins, who had been very instrumental in all of the food programs in Memphis, was on the board, and Laverne Hellums had become the director of education. At that meeting they talked about what could really happen in the first time that we would go to a national meeting, and they came up with the idea of the BLT, which is something that they wanted to do in 10-minute segments of information that they could give to their workers so that they might be better equipped, knowing that they didn’t have very much time in the day. And so they came up with the first BLT. But let me go back just a bit, even before that one we did a BLT at the national convention and from that time on we have done a BLT every year since that time. It is really just a way of teaching in a quick, efficient way to the workers. But they have been really good and I think they have been very well accepted by the people out there in the field, don’t you?
JM: Oh, absolutely. One of the things we keep going back to, this framework that the feasibility study developed. That was so important because the framework provided that there would be two advisory boards to the Institute. One would be a general advisory board to be appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture and one would be a research, education, and technology advisory board. They became known as the GAB and the RETAB. The GAB board consisted of, I believe, five or six people. Dr. Phillips was on the GAB, Betty Bender, Eileen Mathews, Rachelle Bagley, and Shirley Watkins, and there was an industry person appointed to the advisory board also. They met in Washington early on to provide, I guess, the general structure, to come up with some overall policies. I wasn’t a part of that.
JP: I was a part of that board, and times that we would meet, the first time that we met, we simply established some of the things that we wanted to try to accomplish that first year to be very visible. Everyone was there. We just took a blank sheet of paper, and they’ve laughed about the blank sheet of paper for years, that these were the things that we wanted to do this year, knowing that we had a program of work that we would establish for the next year. So those five people served in that capacity a long, long time, until we put the boards together, and it was very, very interesting to see as we worked with USDA the different areas that these people considered their own, you know, they were responsible for one area and they were very, very helpful to us in the general, all over conception of what we were to do and some of the things they gave us real direction on. Go ahead.
JM: I was part of the RETAB, the Research, Education, and Technology Advisory Board. That first meeting was held in Memphis. And Dr. Phillips had planned the agenda for the RETAB. When we got to the meeting she had divided the RETAB into subcommittees, and I was to work with the technology transfer. I didn’t know what technology transfer was, and neither did Jim Miller, who was the industry person, or the other people. So we played around with that and came up with, I thought, a report that we thought was acceptable. But to me the highlight of that RETAB meeting was the report of the education committee, and Shirley Watkins and Laverne Hellums did that one. They not only came up with the idea of BLT, but they named it. Before it became the BLT, they decided it would be the “Breakfast-Lunch Training” module and it would be called the “10-Minute BLT.” So that’s how the BLT got its name, at that first RETAB meeting. It has stuck and I think now people would be very disappointed if they didn’t have a BLT.
BK: I know it was well received at that first ASFSA meeting when you… Do you want to talk a little bit about that response to the BLT in Las Vegas?
JP: Why don’t you? You probably remember more about the people’s response.
BK: I just remember people; it was my first ASFSA meeting and I knew hardly anything about that.
JP: We were so new that they wanted to see what we looked like, and what we were doing, and what in the world this thing was, this National Food Service Management Institute. I think it was curiosity that brought a lot of people into that room. And it was standing room only.
JM: The lines, the lines formed outside the room.
JP: We probably had a thousand of the three thousand people that were there. So, it was a wonderful meeting and we were so nervous about that meeting, as you remember, where everything was and whether we had enough to hand out, and the expectations for that meeting. But I can visualize the room now, and you probably can, too, because it was packed and everybody was standing. I think it was more of curiosity than of information, but they soon found out and we have had good responses at the national meetings, I think, since.
JM: Very good. And at that meeting Carolyn and Laverne worked so hard to set up the props, and we had such a little bit of money to work with. That first appropriation to the Institute to operate and get a program off the ground was very minimal. I think it was $500,000. I remember the props at that meeting. They were pretty much handmade. Nothing shiny and glossy and high-tech as the Institute is doing today, but it was very effective and the excitement of the people for getting a copy of it.
JP: Yes. To have something they could take home and that was useful to them. I think that there were probably about six employees at that time. Is that all? There were not very many at that first meeting. And we had to do all of that to get it ready for, but it is a nice vision that we all have of that first meeting.
BK: And then not too long after that there was the first satellite seminar. Let’s talk about that.
JM: Okay. That was one of the ideas that came out of the technology transfer meeting.
JP: This very informed group that made this suggestion.
JM: Out of the RETAB. We didn’t know what technology transfer was, but we thought, you know, the idea of a national satellite program was great, because here the Institute had been charged with improving the operation of child nutrition programs across America, and here we are located in Oxford, Mississippi, with half a dozen staff. How do we improve the operations, how do we launch a program to improve the operation of child nutrition programs in all of the states? And so our group, and then the staff decided it was a great idea that there should be a national satellite network, and we called it the Child Nutrition Satellite Network, came back to the University and talked with them. At that time we were working under the operation of Continuing Ed. and we talked with the director of Continuing Ed., and he gave us his experiences in doing satellite programs and wasn’t very optimistic that we would be able to do it, but you know that thing about, that little song, “There was a man who on every hand, said it couldn’t be done. But he started to sing as he tackled the thing, and then he did it.” Well, Dr. Phillips and I just didn’t take “No” for an answer, so we did begin to work on developing a satellite program. And Dr. Phillips knew this wonderful person who had previously worked with the Institute, Ty Warren, and how about picking up there Dr. P?
JP: Ty Warren agreed to come and to help us, and of course the facilities here at the University of Mississippi’s communications, all of those facilities were made available to us and we began to do our first satellite program. It seems like such a long time ago that that happened, but I can remember that in Yerby is where we’d beam down that, and in Yerby we had a time and we had sent out a time across the country, and we were going to have ours there. The room again was full. It was a marvelous turnout from University people as well as people in surrounding areas who were coming in to see it. If you had told us the year before that we could have done that, written the script, had it produced, we would have never believed it. But you can do what you want to do if you decide that it’s the thing you need to do. The place that we sat to write that script was in the Home Management House in the room to your right, there on that big table. And we spent nights having no idea what we were doing. But we got a script written. We got someone to deliver, or be the MC. I guess you did that for that first one.
JM: We had a panel that did that.
JP: We had a panel that came in and Ty came in and helped with that.
JM: And Ty just, you know, we did the initial script, but as Dr. Phillips said, we labored over writing that because neither of us had any background in script writing. So we labored over the script, and Ty took a look at it and said, “You know, if this is going nationwide…”
JP: That really wasn’t what he said.
JM: “But if this is going nationwide, we’ve got to have some bells and whistles.” Ty had done some previous work with Ole Miss and had some wonderful collections of things that the University allowed us to use in that first satellite program. We had some hip-hop music; no, rap. It was rap then. We had some rap music about changing food habits. We had kids involved in it, and at the very close of the satellite we had a group of young people, and maybe your children were in that. But I know we did have some of the staff members’ children were in that closing song. And it ended up saying, “To the school nutrition people of America, we want to thank you for all that you do every day to feed the kids.” And it was just a very moving closing moment of that satellite seminar. We had, I don’t remember how many people, practically every state in the nation was hooked into the satellite program that day. We had thousands and thousands of people throughout the country seeing this satellite program, first satellite program, from the University of Mississippi.
BK: Was it the first one that won an award, or the second one?
JP: The second one won a national award.
BK: The National Distance Learning Award.
JP: One of the things about that though, Beth, that was even more phenomenal I thought than actually the production of it was the fact that the way in which we got the information to the people; we wrote them, told them, sent them information and leaflets about when the satellite program would be, and they began to bond in those places that would come together and I think that was one of the things we saw in the last reports of those, that that was a good thing that they had done that. Of course, times have changed but at the beginning that was good information and they had a chance to meet to view, and they also had a chance to talk about other things that were relevant in their states. And it was a nice bonding for all fifty states.
BK: How was it that this network came about? I mean, how did you get the word to all the schools?
JP: It was really by correspondence. We did some things in the newsletters that, most of the states have newsletters, and we would do that. Set the teleconferences ahead of time. Let them know through newsletters. But we also sent individual letters to people that had responded back that they were the coordinator in their schools.
JM: I think one of the groups that we really have not given credit to, or paid tribute to at this point, are the state directors of school nutrition programs throughout the nation. Because we were totally dependent, we realized that was our first link to a state, to work through a state educational agency. The state directors were very supportive of the child nutrition programs, so when we started establishing the network, we first went to the state director of the child nutrition program. Knowing that it would impose some extra work in those offices, we suggested that they appoint a coordinator of the satellite programs. I think nearly every state agency did appoint a coordinator of the satellite programs. That was a person who worked with our team here at NFSMI to get the word out. In addition to launching the program on satellite, there was also printed hard-copy information. Now remember that in 1992 we did not have the Internet. So it was necessary for the state agencies to let us know how many or who, they made the copies, but they let us know how many copies of the material they would need and then they made the copies and distributed them within the states. We did not have that responsibility, but we did have to send them hard copies to work from, because that’s all we had. I don’t think we even had floppy disks then, or we weren’t using floppy disks.
JP: We probably had them but were not using them at that time.
JM: Then the other thing, we had a reporting system that they reported back to us after the seminar about the number of people. One other thing that we had at the close of each of those early seminars was a question and answer period, because it was announced that at the close of the seminar, if you have any questions about the information that was presented, the NFSMI staff would be on hand to answer your questions for an hour after the close of the seminar.
JP: That was popular very much so in those early ones. Later it became probably not as effective. The Help Desk had come into place at that time. We had established that at the Institute. Then the calls came to the Help Desk, but before that we would just answer whatever calls came in.
BK: Let’s shift gears a little bit from programs to facilities. Would you all talk about how the Institute came to be at its present location and in its current facility?
JM: Let’s talk about that snowy, cold day…
JP: No, that’s the beginning probably. First of all, we knew that we had limited space. We were just on top of each other at the Institute by the time we thought about it. All the rooms – and it was hard for us to find room.
JM: And, Dr. Phillips, don’t you think from the very beginning back there when I came in 1991, it seemed to me that one of the first things that we dreamed about and visualized, even in ’91, was that someday we would have our own building. So it wasn’t a spur of the moment or an evolving dream, but we saw the building as right at the beginning. And I think that was part of the motivation that helped us to work through getting permanent legislation and seeing that it could be done. We knew it could be done.
JP: Let’s talk about the trailers.
JM: The trailer story is kind of interesting. Well, we outgrew the Home Management House and we had a need for more space. We asked the University for more space and looked all over the campus for a building or for space in another building, and nothing seemed to be adequate for what we perceived to be a long range need. Now we could have moved into another space, but it would have been a temporary space. So someone came up with the idea, “Why don’t we ask for a double-wide?” But we knew at that time that the Chancellor, that Dr. Turner did not allow double-wides on the campus. He did not like double-wides. For some reason, though, we thought that might be an idea, so I put on my bold face and went to see the Chancellor one day to talk with him about the need for space. And I kind of said, “Dr. Turner, I know you really don’t like double-wides on the campus and you only have one on the campus at this point, but we are just out of space. Would you consider allowing us, or giving us permission to buy a double-wide trailer to go back of the Home Management House? It will not be obtrusive. It will not take away from the campus.” And he looked at me and he said, “Well, you know, Josephine, you do need more space. And you are right, I don’t like double-wides. We’ll give you permission, but I am going to tell everyone that you came from Georgia dragging a double-wide down here and ruining the looks of the University.”
JP: And the entrance anyway, the entrance to the campus.
JM: Yes. The entrance to the campus. So he did approve, gave us permission to buy the first double-wide, and then we outgrew that and we added a second double-wide, and then we added a third double-wide. We were kind of filling up all of the spots over there for the double-wides. At that point the team kind of put its head together and said, “Maybe now is the time that we should ask the Chancellor if he would consider suggesting to our Congressional delegation, particularly Senator Cochran since he was on the Appropriations Committee, I believe, if there might be some funding available for a building. I sent a memo over to the Chancellor’s office and Leone –
JM: – Leone King responded to me and said, “The Chancellor asked me to see if you could meet him in Washington on a certain day in May and go see the Senator about the possibility of some funding for the Institute.” I met him, and the Senator was very responsive and right away we did get, he authorized, or asked for the authorization of $50,000 for another feasibility study to determine if the Institute needed a building. Dr. Phillips?
JP: And from there we began to plan a building, thinking about what are the kinds of things that we need in this building. As we had been all over the country we had taken some notes on what they had been doing in other places, what kinds of buildings that they were building and the kind of facility that we would need to do all of the things that we had been mandated to do. And I think we sort of put those at the back of our mind, then began to put them on paper, and then began to look around. The feasibility committee came and we still added more ideas to what we were going to do. I think that one day you got a call, didn’t you? Didn’t you get a call about some money? And when we got the call about some money, I don’t remember about the trip out in the woods to try to find a location. But we had really had our eye on this knoll. And on this knoll out there was a tower and a couple of, I guess it was a pumping station or something. There were two or three little houses there. We, well, you tell about getting in the car and getting stuck. You got stuck with them.
JM: Oh, yes. Well, after the feasibility study was funded, we were so sure that the feasibility committee would recommend that we needed an Institute, so Dr. Phillips, Mr. Reeves, and I called Dr. Wyatt, who was then in charge, I guess, of facilities for the University, and said to him, “We feel that it is time for us to select a spot on the campus for our new building.” It was another cold winter day, and Dr. Wyatt suggested that we get in his van and come over here. There was a little dirt road down the hill from the Institute and we were all in his van. It had been snowing and it had been raining, and we got stuck in the woods. It appeared that, as I recalled, Dr. Wyatt had to call someone to get his van out of the mudhole.
JP: Beth, you know the little roads that go off to the side there? We were up in there and of course there was none of that cleared off. There was no walk through there or anything so we sat there and spinned the wheels for a long time.
JM: But then we walked through the woods, and we saw this knoll and said, “This is it. This is where we want to be.” I guess that was in mid-winter. The National Advisory Council was coming to meet in the spring. We decided that it was very important for us to let the National Advisory Council know that we had a spot picked out. So we developed, and when I say “we” I don’t remember who specifically did it but “we” meaning the whole team, put together a very makeshift sign that said, “Future Home of the National Food Service Management Institute”, and we drove –
JP: Pretty presumptuous of us, wasn’t it?
BK: Kind of staked your claim.
JM: – and we drove the National Advisory Council by here to show them where the home was going to be. But after the feasibility study was conducted Senator Cochran and his colleagues there in the Senate did ask for money to be provided for building the Institute, and it was to come in three parts, but it was only to be money matched from state money. Fifty percent federal, fifty percent state. Well, what really happened because of some changes in the legislation that was going to eliminate that funding source, Senator Cochran was able to make the first $3 million available the first year of the funding source, rather than the University getting a million dollars a year. You know, I come back to this thing over and over. None of this could have been done without the support from the Chancellor’s office and the Vice Chancellor’s office. They were so wonderful all the way through to support the development of the Institute, the building, the funding, seeing that funding was provided, helping us to get matching funding from the state legislature.
JP: And that is one thing I want to add there. The state legislature, you know, it was a wonderful thing to be able to just ask and get that money to match and to be able to build the Institute as fast as we were able to do that.
JM: And by that time Chancellor Khayat was here, and his legislative representative was down in Jackson every day, watching this request for funding, for the matching funding to come through, and giving us reports of how it was happening.
BK: It is a beautiful facility that we have now, and we are really enjoying being in it. We really appreciate all the work that was done to get it.
JM: It really is a beautiful place, and Beth, I think that one of the thrilling things to me is to see the expression on the faces of people who come to the Institute and to feel their ownership that it is our institute.
JP: Just this week, Beth, Ruth Marsden has been here for the first time and she was the first person from that was our CEO I guess. She, the first time she saw it, she was so elated and we were, you know, just love to hear those kinds of comments.
JM: I know, one of the times, Dr. Ray Hoops was the person to whom I reported when I was here, and he asked me, “Josephine, what are your long-range objectives for the Institute?” And I said, “Well, my first objective is to have it fully staffed with the kind of professional people that we need to make this Institute a sustainable Institute over the long range. And then the second thing, I want to see a building.” I said, “I won’t be here long enough to see the building built, but I would like to see funding for the building, and a design of the building, and then I will feel that if we have the staffing and we have the building and we had already pretty much gained the national support.” When I say “national,” the school nutrition people throughout the nation had given their full support. I felt like we had the support but we needed to have the human resources and the physical facilities in order to have a sustainable program that would carry out the mission of the legislation, to improve the operation of child nutrition programs through research, education, and information dissemination and technology training.
BK: I am going to shift gears a little bit here. What roles have the American School Food Service Association, and it has now changed its name to the School Nutrition Association, and the American Dietetic Association played in the work of the Institute?
JM: You want me to begin? I think initially the idea was formalized at the Vision of Vail, and that was an American School Food Service Association function. The initial request for the legislation for the feasibility study was developed under the leadership when Jane Wynn of Ft. Lauderdale was president of ASFSA, and then Shirley Watkins, I believe, followed Jane Wynn, and she followed through on that. So ASFSA promoted the establishment or the authorization for a feasibility study and so they supported legislation there in 1987, and 88, and 89, very strongly for the establishment. I think another, two other roles that ASFSA played there in the early days that were very important, I think ASFSA had felt some ownership. They wanted it to succeed, and at the national meetings time was allowed on general sessions for a report from the Institute to give the members of ASFSA an opportunity to know what was happening at the Institute and the Institute usually developed a short video. We probably had three or four minutes to do everything that was on the general session, but ASFSA provided a general presence at the general session for the Institute to give the members a brief report. Those were, and then the third thing that ASFSA did, that we have already discussed, was to use the Institute to provide some pre-conference programs as well as conference sessions. So they were very supportive there in helping get the Institute launched and providing a venue for delivering training.
JP: And I think the ADA has also, the American Dietetic Association has also done the same thing Beth. As far as allowing us to present some programs if we have requested or have the money in order to do those, but I think that they have been cooperative. They have been cooperative on the nutrition update and some programs that we have done.
JM: And to try to further the collaboration with ASFSA, our advisors – I say ours, you see I am still possessive. I don’t mean to be because I am gone. But the National Advisory Council of the National Food Service Management Institute has positions on its committee for the president-elect and the vice-president of the American School Food Service Association to be members of our national advisory board. And that helps to, for them to know, well it does two things. Number one, they have the opportunity to provide input into ideas for the Institute and they also have an opportunity to see how the work of ASFSA and NFSMI can be coordinated, and that we are not duplicating, but we are complementing each other.
JP: And Beth, those positions were set up a long time ago, and we’ve tried hard not to deviate from that because it is a good cross representation of that, across the board of people who are interested in child nutrition programs. Even though there have been times we would like to maybe change that, I think it has held pretty well as far as being representative of everybody across the country, of ideas that they bring into us once a year.
BK: How do you think the challenges facing the Institute have changed over the years?
JP: Well, I think that in the very beginning we were so interested that we be recognized as a place that the person out there in the field could call or could write and could ask for some help and we would be able to provide them some very practical things that would help them prepare school lunches every day. I think that is the bottom line of what we have tried to do. I don’t think that those change very often, but they certainly – they don’t change the basic needs, but they change in the way in which we’ve handled them.
JM: I think the mission of the Institute grows directly out of the authorizing legislation. And the legislation authorizes the Institute to provide research, well, authorizes research to improve the operation of child nutrition programs and it gives the Institute the charge to one, conduct research; two, develop and provide education and training programs including developing networks of trainers; and it authorizes and directs the Institute to serve as a clearinghouse of information including dissemination of products that are developed by state agencies, developed by the Institute, and developed by the USDA, so our basic mission has not changed throughout all the years. Now, this year we did have, I believe it was this year, that Congress did add a specific responsibility for the Institute to work on the issues of safety. Because since 1991, or 1989, when this authorization language was first developed, the issue of safety has become a major issue with bioterrorism, the technological advances that have been made in food processing, the amount of food that now we are getting from other countries, so that there are a lot of issues surrounding safety that were really not issues when the program, when the legislation was initially authorized, so I think the whole issue of safety has been one of the major changes. The other charges were pretty much the same. Now in 1991 we were still dealing with some issues of “How do we implement the dietary guidelines?”, because the dietary guidelines were fairly new. They came into being in the 80s. So we were dealing with the issues of implementing the dietary guidelines. But we still had pockets of hunger and malnutrition and the need to expand the School Breakfast programs, so we were dealing with a lot of those issues in 91, 95, but then in the mid 90s; from mid-95 until the present time we began to see that we not only had issues of under-nutrition, but we have issues of over-nutrition. So one of the major changes that has come about as I see it is for the Institute to work with USDA and other organizations on this problem of over-nutrition or obesity that has become an epidemic in this country. So our focus has shifted a little bit from just getting food and the right kind of food to concentrating on helping people to eat the right kind and the right amount of food. Oh, the other thing, Dr. Phillips, we haven’t mentioned that I think has been a major change is this whole technological revolution. I mean just think Beth, you were here in 1991, how little technology and how you had to come and turn my computer on for me because I didn’t even know how to turn my computer on. And now I spend about 8 to 10 hours a day working on the computer.
BK: I remember thinking, “How are we going to do all this? It can’t possibly all be on the computer.” And nowadays, all you have to do is go to the Internet and find information, so that really is wonderful.
JP: But still let’s remember that our focus is on helping those people out there that are providing that, whatever their needs are. We don’t want to go in such a narrow viewpoint that we forget all the wide varieties of things that those people are dealing with every single day, sometimes twice a day, and some schools even three times a day. So we want to remember that as we talk about what we need to do as far as school food service is concerned.
JM: And Dr. Phillips, you said something there that really triggered another very important change that has taken place and another very important need. We need to focus on our primary customers, and our primary customers are the children, and the food service personnel. We like to call them the child nutrition professionals who are serving, preparing the food and serving the children every day. And two things have happened to those two groups of primary customers, and that is diversity. Ten, fifteen years ago, we did not think about the diverse student population that we have to serve. It was like if we serve one the good old American food, that’s great. But just the plain, good old American food is not enough today. We need to make sure that our menus are reflecting the culture preferences of the students who come to us every day. The same thing is true of our workforce. Ten years, fifteen years ago, we did not have the diversity of personnel in the workforce. Now, one of the things that the Institute must be very cognizant of is not only putting out training materials in English, but we need to be disseminating training materials, whether we are doing it in hard copy or on the Web, in other languages so that we are able to reach those primary customers that we need to train, we need to provide educational opportunities to, so that they will understand the need and be trained to prepare and serve quality food to the customers.
BK: How have the products and services of NFSMI that we offer today changed from those that we offered, those things that were originally envisioned when you were thinking about what would the Institute do, how would it deliver it, and look at what we are doing now? Do those things match? Or how are they different from what you first envisioned?
JP: Well, I think the first vision that we had of reaching the people was certainly not on the Web, and I think you heard us talk about how we started with the satellite and some other things. I think that it is almost totally different now as to how we are going to reach the majority of the people. But it is not how we reach it so much as in the way in which we develop that material to get to those people, so it is going to be first of all be accessible to them, easily done, and short segments. And I think it is preparation of how we are going to put it on the Web or how are we going to be able to talk back with somebody. We need to have immediate feedback from some of those people. How do we do that? Everything is immediate now. You fill out a little questionnaire at the end of something and get it back. You expect the provider to do that. I think that is what they are expecting of us today. Now, you’ve been there and you know more about that than I do in recent years, but are you feeling that, Dr. Martin, that we are still moving faster and faster and we need to have a faster response for people?
JM: Oh, absolutely. I think one of the major changes has been how we deliver information, how we can use electronic means to deliver information, and there is such a need for us to even expedite that because other organizations are coming along expediting the delivery electronically and it is very important with all the changes that are taking place in the programs today, for the Institute to provide the multiple delivery systems, whether it is online education for CEUs or whether it is a facilitated online program or whether it is just an informational program or simply the Institute linking to other organizations where they can get help. The clearinghouse that we operated in ’91 and ’92 was so simple we did it by telephone. If someone asked a question we almost had to take time to research it and to find hard copy to give them an answer. And now with the clearinghouse, the major responsibility, one of the major responsibilities would be for an NFSMI staff person to know the link to direct that person to, to get the information and to be able to provide so much more than one human being could possibly synthesize, but they may be able to refer a person to multiple links to get several points of view about an issue. So the instant information that we have now has, and the instant delivery, has made a major change.
JP: Well, you work with that every day and you see that. I am not sure we are talking about something that is, that we can do immediately, but, can we?
JM: I think, and Beth is certainly the expert in this area, but with electronics we don’t have much time to wait, do we, Beth?
BK: It changes all the time.
JM: If we don’t build it today –
JP: And if we build it today, what is happening to that person out there? And you know, I guess we just have to expect them to have the equipment to receive.
JM: But what we probably need to be thinking about is what kind of sustainable structure could the Institute have that would allow you to meet that change in need so it becomes obsolete tomorrow; it is good today but it becomes obsolete tomorrow. But the structure needs to be there so that you wouldn’t have to spend zillions of dollars to change the structure in order to provide your onlines, your clearinghouse, the resources, all of those things that the Institute is doing now, but we need, probably need to do it to be able to change faster. I don’t know how you feel Beth. I know you use the Web or the Internet a lot, but there is nothing more disconcerting to me than to go to one of our major organizations looking for information and to see “last updated June 2003” and you feel, “I wanted something current.” Do you feel that way?
BK: Yes, it really does enhance your expectations.
JP: And so those are the kinds of problems, you know, economic problems, money, to do some of those kinds of things, and some I guess we could do without, but, yes, those are some of the problems. What was the question? [laughs] I am not sure I remember what the question was.
JM: Could I come back to this same thing that we need to harp on. We could get so engrossed in technology and so engrossed in process –
JP: Oh, absolutely.
JM: – that somehow, the Institute just absolutely needs to keep in mind that what we are here for is to improve the quality of the school meals that are offered to the children throughout the nation every day. Those, in those 95,000 schools and those thousands of child care facilities throughout the nation, that our focus is on the children. That somehow it is easy to get lost –
JP: Our focus is on the children, but our main responsibility is for those people who are doing it. And that is where we need to have our focus is on the people who are providing those good quality meals and resources for our children.
JM: And to do whatever we can to help those people, whether they are at the state level or the district level or at the school level, to realize that it is what they do every day that makes the difference. So the Institute is simply a vehicle for helping other people to do the best they can to serve the children of the nation, because we don’t see children.
JP: We haven’t answered your question.
BK: You did answer my question, and now I have another question for you and it is related to the last one. What new products or services would you like to see the Institute provide?
JP: I think we kind of answered those.
BK: Anything beyond technology, technology enhancements?
JM: That would be, I think the important thing now would be to maybe several things, new services. I think technology enhancement so that more opportunities are available for training online and to have it very customer friendly. I’ve done some distance ed. and it is very hard for a student, whether it is a food service worker, or a graduate student, a food service director getting a graduate degree, it is very hard to remain motivated when you are working online. And I think that’s one of the things we need to keep in mind as we think about developing online training and education opportunities is to keep it customer friendly. So I think that is one of the big areas that we, that the Institute probably needs to look at is how to maximize technology for information dissemination, training, and education. I guess those are the two big things and then to be aware of the new trends in training or in technology that is coming down the pike, because we know it is happening so fast that next year there are going to be new things. I think another thing that probably we have talked about since `91, but we have never gotten there, that there needs to be maybe some thought given to developing an educational structure that the Institute would be working towards having a plan for – Dr. Phillips, you are the academician here. A curriculum for –
JP: A structure for it. I don’t know exactly what we are trying to call it but it is a form of the curriculum so that it would be a continuing kind of thing, deleting, structured so that we would cover the topics that every school food service or person who is out there in the schools would need over a period of time. I thought you were going to talk about some of the NET professionals we need out in every state, which we still need to develop as far as you know, when we set up the Institute we said we were going to have someone in every state. We’ve done NETPRO. We’ve done some things but we still need to have that network of professionals in every state that we can call on. Every state.
JM: You know, getting back to this whole idea, whether we call it a curriculum structure or the –
JP: It looks like this.
JM: – the framework for developing education for what is needed by state educational staff, what is needed by district directors, what is needed by managers, and what is needed by the site-based personnel. At this point the Institute has the competencies identified and the Applied Research Division has developed those competencies. Now the Institute is ready to put those competencies in a framework.
JP: But with some more research before that is put into that framework, we need to look at these competencies as a whole and see which of those are the competencies that we truly want to develop in those people out there. I am sorry. I am getting to the nitty-gritty rather than the big picture of that framework. But I am feeling that we need several steps ahead of that before we can look at this bigger picture of where we are at each one of those stages and what we do to develop that and have it in place so that it is there. We can pull it out ten years from now and look at it and it is still the same kind of competencies that are needed probably. Sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt you, but those are some of the things. And we start with those competencies and we start with looking at somebody in the states, that’s been one of our things, Beth, that we have not been able to do, is to have somebody in a state that we can pull. Or you may be better with that now, I don’t know, but somebody responsible in that state for delivering messages that you send. We still have not perfected that network, unless you know that we have.
JM: Well, the legislation provided or directed the Institute to establish a network of trainers and our approach to that network of trainers was a program called NETPRO. There were four, a series of four workshops developed to train the trainers for each state to be responsible for delivering training, realizing that state educational agencies simply did not have the funds or the manpower, the people power, excuse me. The people power to establish a network, to pay for a network of trainers, and so the state agencies did send personnel to the Institute, or the NETPRO workshops were conducted throughout the nation, and several states did establish networks of trainers that they call NETPRO trainers. That, those networks have been very effective in the states that organized their NETPRO trainers. It seems to me that’s one of those programs that kind of got dropped along the way that needs to be picked up, maybe not called NETPRO.
JP: It needs to have someone who is representing every state so we are sure that we are getting the same information to all of those states, whether it is NETPRO or whether it is professionals, or child nutrition professionals or whatever they are called. It seems to me that it would be a very effective thing that we could distribute evenly across the board.
JM: And that person could help alleviate one of the problems that we are all concerned about. The Institute, the USDA, they are both developing some wonderful materials, but unfortunately we go into many schools or school districts and find one of two things, or maybe both things happening. Number one, we may find the material still sitting on the shelf in the director’s office or in the state agency. Or when we ask school nutrition personnel if they know about some of the materials, they’ve never heard of them. So there is still a need for marketing. How do we disseminate or get the word out that these wonderful materials are out there, because unless they are used we are not achieving our goal.
JP: I think it is a checklist that we could be sure that at least they’ve been exposed to that material.
JM: Even then, we talked about a market, Beth, I am sure you remember, we talked about the need for a marketing person. And maybe we don’t need a person, but we need the marketing concept. How do we market the information, the wonderful materials being developed by the Institute? I am just absolutely amazed every time a new publication comes out of the Institute. I look at it, compare it to what our first ones looked like, and think, “Wow! Wow, what a difference.” They are so wonderful.
JP: Did we over-answer your question?
BK: Not at all. Now –
JP: It just seems to me that we still need that personal touch with each of those states that we have not quite developed. I’m sorry. Go ahead.
BK: This is your interview. Do you have any memorable stories from the Institute that you would like to share?
JP: Beth, I am not sure I could share on television some of mine at the Institute. Do you want to tell one?
JM: I’ll tell, you know, I could think of a bunch of them. But I think one of the more exciting things that happened in the early days of the Institute, Catherine Bertini was Assistant Secretary of Agriculture and was such a wonderful supportive individual. She and Senator Cochran just had a great relationship, so anything Senator Cochran said Catherine Bertini listened to, and I think it was a mutual relationship there. And they were both so supportive of the Institute. Catherine was coming to Mississippi to visit some child nutrition programs. We invited her to stop by Ole Miss and see the Institute. It was just very exciting when Catherine Bertini came, I guess in 1992.
JP: One of the interesting things about it, Judith Lewis had been a student at Ole Miss and so they came together, and that was even better, you know.
BK: And Judith was working for Catherine?
JM: Yes. And Judith did go on to Rome with Catherine when she became director of the World Food Organization, and Judith is still working with World Food, but she is back in Washington I understand.
JM: But Judith was a tremendous help in communicating the importance of the Institute to Catherine Bertini, but Catherine Bertini was just a warm concerned individual who cared and helped to get the Institute developed. She had a person on her staff who was Dr. Steve Abrams, and that’s another memorable story that I will tell. This happened in ’94. The Food Guide Pyramid was just coming off the press. It was to be announced, for some reason it was to be announced by the Secretary of Agriculture the same day we had a satellite seminar going, and it was decided I guess by Catherine Bertini that Steve should be here, Steve Abrams should be here to announce the Food Guide Pyramid on NFSMI satellite. And it happened. On that day that Dr. Steve Abrams announced to all the child nutrition people listening in on the satellite that there was a Food Guide Pyramid and many people to this day say, “Well, you remember that the Food Guide Pyramid was first announced on the NFSMI satellite seminar.”
JP: That came from the University of Mississippi.
JM: Yes. It came from the University of Mississippi. That was just really exciting. I think one of the other memorable stories that I have, we have talked about the Mississippi congressional delegation being so wonderful, but we had other people on that Senate Agriculture Committee who were very supportive, and one of those was Senator Bob Dole. And right off hand Senator Dole sent word to us that he was very much concerned about the lack of help that schools and school districts had in taking care of the needs of special education children. Senator Dole asked us if we would do something to emphasize and provide training to people so that they would respond more effectively to special education children. And two things that the Institute did, number one, we immediately, our Applied Research Division immediately launched a research study to identify some needs and some support and develop some really good materials on how local systems could work to do that. But the other thing that the Institute did was to plan a national seminar out in Kansas and bring together a collaboration of all of the professional people that help the educators: the physical therapists, the occupational therapists, the speech therapists – maybe I am overlapping – the nutrition people, and talk about what was being done to help schools to meet the nutritional needs and the food needs of children with Special Ed. Senator Dole came to that workshop, and that was a very exciting workshop that we had in Kansas City.
JP: From that workshop we have now in the schools what some of those rules and regulations are and I am not sure it all happened at that workshop but it was all a part of that. We now have stipulations as to what the school food service people do and what they can, how they can serve and how they go about that. Until that time there had been none of those kinds of mandates or regulations.
JM: The mandates were there.
JP: The mandates were there but the requirements of why they did that were not there.
JM: It really moved the USDA forward into coming up with some rules and regulations.
JP: Pressured them to do so. No, not really, but it helped.
JM: It did. I think it did. We had multiple training opportunities. The USDA did provide many, many training opportunities in that area and developed new rules and regulations, and developed a guidance to follow. That was instigated by Senator Dole, which we appreciated very much and we had a letter from Senator Dole expressing, and I hope we still have it.
JP: We still have that letter, and it is in the Archives, or it is ready for the Archives anyway.
JM: That would be a good letter to see framed somewhere, because that was so important to have Senator Dole’s support of the Institute.
BK: I just want to thank you for taking the time to come talk about the Institute. I want to thank you both for what you have done for the Institute. I know you just put in countless, countless hours working on behalf of the nation’s children and to make this Institute come about, and we really appreciate that, and I appreciate your time with us today.
JP: Well Beth, you’ve been a very important part of this Institute also, and we appreciate your time from the very beginning.
JM: Yes, you were here when I started, so we do appreciate all that you do.
JP: And leaving that real secure job to come to the Institute.
BK: That was a challenge. Thanks.
JM: It was a pleasure.