Marketing & Customer Service

We want students to come through the cafeteria line, filling 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 great options available and encourage students to choose school meals to fuel their growing bodies.

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 our customers, and they remember the experiences they have with school nutrition professionals each day.

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:

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. 

Talk with Our Expert

Carol Chong is one of our National Nutrition Advisors. By contacting her, you can ask questions, learn best practices and get started creating a healthier school environment.

Get to know Carol | Connect with Carol | @nutricook24


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