Marketing & Customer Service
When students come through the cafeteria line we want them to fill their trays with the delicious and healthy school meals that have been prepared for them. To make that a reality, we need to promote the options available and encourage students to fuel their growing bodies and for learning success.
Basic marketing practices, including food placement, promotional posters, creative names for entrees, and fun campus events, such as taste tests, can change the way your students view new items on the menu. Serving students their meals with a smile can also go a long way. Kids are your customers and they remember the experiences they have with school nutrition professionals each day.
4 Steps to Boost Participation in Your School Nutrition Program
Step 1: Market and Promote
Get the word out about the healthy foods and beverages your program offers. Consider sharing updates about new menu items, opportunities for parent and student participation, and the health benefits of more nutritious diets through:
Announcements made over the intercom or via email
Parent newsletters, staff memos or the student newspaper
School websites and social media (try sharing photos of your tasty meals!)
Staff or student orientation or open houses for families
Step 2: Improve Your Presentation
They way you present, introduce and market new or healthy options to students plays a big role in whether or not they will be inclined to consume them. Try appealing to all five senses. Ask yourself the following questions before putting a new item on the menu:
Does the food look delicious?
Is the aroma tempting and pleasing?
Does it sound fresh, crisp or crunchy?
How is the texture, consistency, and mouth-feel?
All of these factors complete the sensory experience and should be considered when planning your menu. Appealing meals increase participation and revenue for your program.
Step 3: Get Input from Students
Involving students in the process of choosing the foods they see on the menu has two important benefits:
- It allows you to solicit immediate feedback on which foods and beverages students prefer.
- It encourages students to be more supportive of healthy changes because they feel like they’ve had a say. (Remember, students are your school nutrition program’s customers!)
Try these strategies to get started:
Conduct a Student School Food Survey
Use our Focus Group How To Guide and Student Focus Group – Moderator’s Guide to get student input about which snacks and meals students prefer
Sample new products and offer a taste testing using our Taste Testing Guide.
Form an advisory group or advisory council so that you can regularly survey students about their opinions
Step 4: Ask for Support
The Healthier Generation Training Center is full of resources to review or watch on your own time, at your own pace. Here are a few to get you started.
Watch on-demand training videos on a variety of school nutrition topics:
And, be sure to connect with our National Nutrition Advisor with questions and/or for a deeper dive into the school nutrition processes.