PALM DESERT, Calif. -- Retailers and manufacturers from the western United States got an early taste of warm spring weather when they gathered here earlier this month at the 81st annual convention of the Western Association of Food Chains. In between formal dinners, cocktail parties and ice cream socials, they may have picked up an idea or two during the convention's business sessions, which were built around the theme "Feeding the Needs of Tomorrow through Education."

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