Almost exactly 27 years ago, just as the National Food Service Management Institute was established, Beverly Pittman Cross began her dedicated career at what is now known as the Institute of Child Nutrition (ICN). She has contributed to growth, seen and affected change, mentored staff, worked under 8 Executive Directors, Interims, and Acting Executive Directors, traveled the country, met countless industry professionals, and contributed to the success of ICN as a vital member of the team. She was here when the Institute was established, attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the current building, participated in the 25th anniversary celebration, and saw the renaming and rebranding from NFSMI to ICN in 2015.
Beverly has too many stories to fit in one article, so we asked for a couple of her favorites. One fond memory she recounted is a conference for Special Needs Nutrition Management conducted at the Westin Hotel in Kansas City in October 1992. She was tasked with coordinating the conference, recruiting 24 leading authorities in nutrition and disabilities, planning logistics for 125 attendees from around the country, seated dinners, and other responsibilities. The event also included an appearance by U.S. Senator Bob Dole who was dedicated to the cause of providing full access in school nutrition programs to all children with disabilities. She recalls that due to limited funding, fall decorations and table centerpieces were made here in Oxford by NFSMI staff and North Mississippi Regional Center clients. The Institute staff transported pumpkins, gourds, and decorations for centerpieces all the way to Kansas City for the event.
It was also hard for Beverly to talk about just one project of the numerous ones she has been a part of over the years. One that stood out for her was the Nutrition Update Seminar Series which was first held in June 1994 and continued for 13 years through November 2007. Beverly recalled, “In addition to the nutrition knowledge participants acquired, the Nutrition Update Seminars provided a foundation for building credibility and increasing a sense of professionalism for child nutrition employees. The lunch lady stereotype was prevalent at that time, and these science-based trainings tapped into the latest nutrition research and best practices.”
Beverly began as a Staff Assistant in October of 1990, shifted to Coordinator of Support Materials in November of 1991, and in 1994 she became the Coordinator of Site Training/Curriculum Developer for ICN. In the early years at the Institute, the work was done by a relatively small staff, and each member juggled a wide range of responsibilities – Beverly’s included coordinating trainings, budgets, meeting rooms, travel arrangements, contracting with consultants, promotion of the Institute, and conference exhibit booths to name a few. For several years, she was also responsible for working with University Publishing on the design and content for all of the Institute’s printed promotional and resource materials, as well as the leader of the Quality Publications team.
As ICN grew and more staff members were hired, positions and job responsibilities became more specialized. In 2010, Beverly took on the role of Assistant Director of Education and Training. In this capacity, she told us, “I have the privilege of working with the fabulous members of ICN’s Training Team who coordinate, schedule, and manage the ever-growing calendar of trainings across the country and U.S. territories. They make me look good every day I come to work.” Beverly and her team are dedicated to providing child nutrition professionals around the country with resources, training sessions, materials, customer service, and support for improved child nutrition programs.
In her recent announcement that she will retire at the end of the year, Beverly wrote, “I am thankful for the visionary child nutrition leaders who dreamed about and planned for this Institute. I hope we will never forget the people who provided the leadership and worked so hard to establish the National Food Service Management Institute…and even better – the Institute of Child Nutrition – ICN! It is the most wonderful realization for me to see that this Institute is indeed fulfilling their vision…and so much more.”
When asked what she will miss most after retirement, she said, “I will miss this family of people who are dedicated to ICN’s success – our staff. Not one of us can do our jobs without the support and skills of others. I will also miss working with child nutrition professionals from every corner of the country and every walk of life. This professional group is dedicated to improving the nutrition of the nation’s children, and it has been my privilege to work all these years in support of them.”
We, the ICN staff and countless others, will miss Beverly Pittman Cross and her passion and dedication to the true mission, vision, and success of the Institute of Child Nutrition.