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 a more nutritious diets through:
- Student/staff/parent handbooks
- 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
How you present food in the cafeteria, how often you introduce new items and how new recipes are marketed to students plays a big role in whether or not students will choose healthier options.
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: Follow Smarter Lunchrooms Techniques
Besides the food itself, there are other factors at play when we decide what and how much we are going to eat. Have you heard of behavioral economics? What about Smarter Lunchrooms Techniques? Learn more about Smarter Lunchrooms and how these techniques can help you create an environment and experience that support healthy decisions.
And check out the Smart Lunchrooms Scorecard to assess how your program is doing or get new ideas for increasing participation and consumption in your cafeterias today.
Step 4: Get Input from Students
Involving students in the process of choosing the foods they see on the menu has two important benefits.
First, you can solicit immediate feedback on which foods and beverages students prefer. And second, students are more supportive of healthy changes when they feel like they’ve had a say. Remember, students are your school nutrition program’s customers!
Try these strategies to get your 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 where you can regularly question or survey students about their opinions
Step 5: Ask for Support
The Alliance’s Training Center is full of resources to simplify the process for you, all available for you 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:
Take a deeper dive with our online curriculum, Child Nutrition- Nourishing Minds and Bodies.
And join the conversation with your peers in our online community, School Nutrition, moderated by Alliance National Nutrition Advisor Carol Chong.