A school nutrition marketing plan can promote your team’s exceptional work and support your program’s success by increasing participation and interest from students and rallying support from parents and the local community. Here are 10 simple ways to incorporate effective marketing tactics that will take your school nutrition program to the next level.
- Develop a Marketing Strategy: For marketing success, establish a clear plan and timeline for how you will promote your school nutrition program. It’s important to establish which audience to target through each tactic. For example, with students, you will focus on marketing in the lunchroom and for parents and the local community, you can promote important information through newsletters or community events.
- Put the Spotlight on Menu Options: If you add new, healthy options to your school menu, make sure to give them the spotlight on the trayline and even showcase the food in more than one place. The Smarter Lunchrooms toolkit, shares that “Offering vegetables in two locations can result in students taking 40% more” and that “Moving fruit from a stainless steel tray to a color fruit bowl can double sales.”
The Smarter Lunchroom handbook highlights how small changes can promote your menu options to appeal to students and increase sales!
- Highlight Menu Items and Nutrition Information with Digital Signage: Displaying digital signage in your lunchroom can help promote menu items and get students buzzing about nutrition. Chef Brendan Gallagher from The Hillside School uses digital signage to connect menu items with their nutritional value. Brendan said, “The way I tie it all in with the menu is if I have minestrone soup which I have on today, then I’ll tie it into let’s say a pinto bean and will talk about the nutrition of a bean” via a lunchroom digital screen.
- Conduct Taste Tests to Familiarize Students with New or Current Menu Options: Through taste tests, the Vermont FEED program, staff “…found that by connecting the three C’s (the Classroom, Cafeteria, and Community) taste tests of new food can be successfully carried out in either the classroom, often during snack time, or in the cafeteria during lunch. The most important thing is to make it a hands-on experience for students; “If they make it they will eat it.” Host small taste tests in various classrooms to promote menu options and test out potential new recipes.
- Collaborate with Teachers: Gather support from teachers to support school wellness and eat breakfast or lunch with students and discuss the importance of balanced, nutritious food choices. Encourage teachers to reiterate important nutrition messaging in more than just health and physical education classes. They can use math classes to highlight serving sizes and calories calculations or social studies to show cultural diversity in diets and how diets have changed over time.
- Organize a Student Food Service Advisory Board: Learn more about the needs and wants of students by gathering students and asking them directly. Create a volunteer Student Advisory Board to test out new menu items, flyer designs, marketing ideas and allow them to gain professional experience to build their resumes. The board members can be an extension of your outreach team and relay new information to their peers.
- Launch a “New Menu Item” Contest: As mentioned earlier, if students make a product they are more likely to eat it. Crowdsourcing new menu items from students is a great way to get students involved in your school nutrition program and find new menu options that appeal to and excite students.
This is one of the USDA Team Nutrition Elementary School posters that you can find online and share in your school.
- Decorate with Posters and Colorful Visuals: Encourage students to make healthier food choices at school by using simple, colorful and visually appealing posters and decorations that will catch their attention. The USDA created several posters that you can hang up in your lunchroom.
- Spread the Word through Newsletters: Use your school’s current communication line with parents and the community, and highlight new school nutrition program updates in the next newsletter or school newspaper.
- Set-up a Booth at Community events: Create a display with sample meals, nutrient analysis, recipes, and cost comparisons at an upcoming parent-teacher conference, community wellness event, neighborhood fair, etc.
The JSI Resource Center also includes many helpful marketing resources that you can utilize for your school nutrition outreach program.
The Nuts & Bolts of School Nutrition Programs Continuation Series is back for the 2017-2018 school year! This training series will provide you with the vital information and skills to improve program operations. Upcoming sessions include both in-person and online trainings covering important topics like Special Dietary Needs, USDA Foods and Inventory Management, Procurement, Afterschool Snack, At-Risk Snack, & Extended Day Snack, Farm to School, Production Records, Recipes, CN Labels, & Product Formulation Statements and Local Wellness Policies.
Don’t miss out on the upcoming October 26, 2017 in-person session on Special Dietary Needs which will provide an overview of both the newly updated (2017) USDA Accommodating Children with Disabilities in the School Meal Programs and the (2016) Managing Life-Threatening Allergies in Schools manuals. Participants will receive a copy of the Managing Life-Threatening Allergies in Schools manual during the session. Register online by October 12, 2017 to join this session.
Join us on November 15, 2017 for the in-person session on USDA Foods & Inventory Management. This session will provide an in-depth understanding of USDA foods such as DoD Fresh, monthly offer sheets, diversion survey, and making the most of your entitlement dollars. Register online by 11/1/2017 to join this session.
All in-person trainings will be held at Framingham State University from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. All online sessions will take place from 2:00 pm to 3:30 pm. The cost is $40 for in-person trainings. Online trainings are FREE. Those who complete seven or more sessions in the series will be recognized at the Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs Summit in May 2018.
Sign-up today for an upcoming session!
Are you serving homemade parfaits, smoothies or dips as snacks at your school? JSI has the resource for you. The new Student-Approved Snack Recipes for Schools includes thirteen recipes created by JSI to provide schools with creative snack ideas that have been tested by K-12 students to ensure acceptability.
The Student-Approved Snack Recipes for Schools have been evaluated using the JSI Recipe Tool, an easy-to-use online tool designed by Registered Dietitians at The John C. Stalker Institute of Food and Nutrition. It is intended for school nutrition programs in Massachusetts to: 1) Analyze recipes for compliance with both state and federal nutritional standards for snacks, whichever is stricter, 2.) Save and share recipes, and 3.) Print recipes, including a nutrition facts panel, ingredients list, and allergens. To learn more and get started using the JSI Recipe Tool, go to www.johnstalkerinstitute.org/rt.
Check out these snack recipes!
Greek Berry Parfait, Peach Blueberry Parfait, The Grape Escape Parfait
Curious Monkey Smoothie, Grandma’s Apple Pie Smoothie, Greek Strawberry Banana Smoothie, Green Monstah Smoothie, Strawberry Banana Smoothie
Arctic Bean Dip w/ Veggie Sticks, Buffalo Dip w/ Veggie Sticks, Hummus with Carrots and Grapes, Sunbutter Dippers, Yogurt Dip w/ Fresh Fruit
This smoothie is packed with super foods that are sure to satisfy! It is perfect for Red Sox Opening Day menu. With a simple name change, it can also be a great marketing product for holidays and events like ‘Shamrock Smoothie’ for St. Patrick’s Day.
The Greek yogurt in this parfait has almost twice as much protein as regular yogurt, with less sugar. The granola and berries add fiber and flavor. This makes the perfect mix for satisfied students!
For even more recipe resources, check out the Recipe and Menu category of the JSI Resource Center!
1. Know Your Audience
- Each social media account will have a different audience. Once you understand the individuals that will be reading and engaging with your posts you can personalize your content to match their interests.
- For example, your Facebook community may be comprised of parents so you can focus on upcoming nutrition events and happenings in your school but your Instagram following might only consist of students so you can share fun photos, upcoming menus and host photo contests.
2. A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words
- Make sure your content stands out by including photos and videos that will catch your audience’s attention as they scroll through social media channels on their phone or computer.
Play with menu items to ensure they are eye-catching when you share them online.
3 . Bring Attention to Your Social Media Channels
- If you want to grow your communities, you can promote your social channels online and in your school. Include your social media links on school handouts, lunchroom bulletins and posters. If your school has a main Facebook page or Twitter account, ask them to share links to your nutrition-focused pages in their “ABOUT” section or in upcoming posts.
4. Think Ahead for New Content
- Use upcoming school events, relevant holidays (March is National Nutrition Month!) and school happenings for new social media content. Stay ahead of ‘what’s coming up next’ so you can post that content when it’s relevant and timely.
National Nutrition Month® is a nutrition education and information campaign created annually in March by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
5. Use Social Media to Promote Nutrition with Students
- Run a social media photo contest to get students excited about nutrition. Encourage students to eat more fruits and vegetables by asking them to share a photo of their lunch plates on Instagram or have them nominate new lunch menu items by using a a hashtag on Twitter (students ages 13 and up).
Locke Middle School in Billerica, MA created the #mealonpoint Instagram challenge to encourage students to eat a well-balanced meal and Instagram a photo of their healthy choice for the chance to win a prize.
6. Engage with your Followers
- Check your social media accounts for just ten minutes each day and engage, as needed. Social media is an online community and fans and followers will be more inclined to engage with your posts, if you also like and respond to their comments and spark an ongoing dialogue.
7. What’s Working and What’s Not
- Most social media platforms have an analytics section (example: Facebook Insights) that shows you what content is resonating with your audience. Check these insights to adjust your content and increase engagement.
8. Get Inspired through Social Media
- Follow other school nutrition programs on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest to get content inspiration for your channels.
9. Share JSI Content
- If something that JSI shares on social media is worth sharing on your channels, feel free to click SHARE or RT and pass it along to your
10. Utilize the JSI Resource Center
- Visit the JSI Resource Center for additional resources to use social media to promote school nutrition programs and increase your social media presence.
Approximately six million children in the U.S have one or more food allergies, and among this population, 16-18% have experienced a reaction in school (National Education Association’s Food Allergy Book). JSI provides the Workshops to Go: Food Allergies to support the food allergy training needs of Massachusetts school staff. This workshop is based upon the newly updated Managing Life-Threatening Food Allergies in Schools that provides staff with strategies to prevent allergic reactions and respond appropriately if an issue was to arise.
On January 31, 2017 JSI hosted the Workshop to Go: Food Allergies for Needham Public Schools. This workshop provided school staff members with training on the difference between a food allergy and food intolerance, the top 8 food allergens, in addition to provided tips on how to search food labels for potential allergens. During the workshop, participants also discussed strategies to manage food allergies in their schools. Some of the workshop activities included:
- Tips For Avoiding Hidden Food Allergens
- Identifying Food Allergens
- Practice Scenarios
Needham Public School Staff Members at Food Allergies Workshop to Go
Find more resources used in the Workshops to Go: Food Allergies in the JSI Resource Center. The Food Allergy Book can be downloaded from the National Education Assciation (NEA) website. Unable to attend a workshop? No problem! JSI offers an online 2-hour training on Food Allergies that you can schedule on your own time! Please visit the JSI website for more information or to schedule a Workshop to Go today!
Do you know the top food trends of your Gen Z (those born after 1995) students? Does your café offer a flavor station for students? Are you engaging all five senses when students enter your café? JSI can help you answer “yes” to these questions and more in the new Infusing Flavor and Flair into School Meals Workshop to Go. Explore K-12 culinary trends, food presentation techniques, flavor profiles with student appeal, and how to overall enhance school meals.
Keefe Tech school nutrition staff and Chef Janyl
On January 13, 2017 Keefe Regional Technical High School took advantage of JSI Workshops to Go by bringing the Infusing Flavor and Flair into School Meals workshop directly to the school nutrition staff at their school. Chef Janyl Finnerty, RD led the workshop.
Throughout the workshop, the Keefe Tech school nutrition staff explored key food trends and food presentation strategies. An opportunity to enhance the flavor profiles of their school meals was also achieved through the following activities:
- Guess the spice or herb based on their scent
- Create, add, and taste several spice blends
- Watch, learn and taste with a Tunisian Chickpea recipe demo by Chef Janyl
Food demo recipe, Tunisian Chickpeas, prepared by Chef Janyl
Check out the resources used in the Infusing Flavor and Flair into School Meals Workshops to Go in the JSI Resource Center. Please visit the JSI website for more information. Take a step towards improving your school’s nutrition, and request a Workshop to Go today!
Green is not just the Pantone color of the year for 2017. As we gear up for the New Year, we’d like to help you think of new ideas to get your school nutrition staff and students involved in programs that are not only beneficial to your school, but also the community and the environment. There are many cost-effective strategies you can implement in your school to minimize food waste and implement “greener” practices throughout the year.
It’s estimated that 40% of food produced in this country doesn’t get consumed (Treehugger). To help minimize food waste in your school you can make small changes, which include:
- Keep your staff educated on food safety so food is not lost due to improper storage, production or receiving practices. The John C. Stalker Institute (JSI) offers a Workshop to Go to help create a culture of food safety at your school.
- Keep production records to identify what leads to food waste.
- Ensure team is monitoring expiration dates so you can prioritize food to serve in your school.
- Letting students serve themselves and select the portions they will actually eat.
- Setting up a table for kids to place items they are not going to consume like their milk cartons.
Recycling Leftover Food
There are many ways to use leftover food to benefit your community and the environment, which can include:
- Compost food waste at your school. Composting reduces landfill waste and generates products that build community and can save your school money. This can be a complement to your schools’ science classes.
- If your school is located near a farm with animals, you can share food scraps for their animal feed. Understand what type of food your local farmer needs and what they can actually use for their animals.
- Fats, oils, and grease can be used to make biodiesel – a renewable fuel source for diesel engines. Contact a local biodiesel club or manufacturer to see if they will accept donations.
Grow Your Own Food
A school garden is a first-hand learning experience for students, a green addition to your community and a simple way to generate produce for your school. Working in the garden gets students outside and moving. To get started:
- Determine the site of your school garden. Use a Soil Testing Laboratory to collect soil samples to determine its quality.
- Involve students in the planning, creation and upkeep of the school garden so it becomes a labor of love from both staff and the student body.
- JSI also offers a “Back to Basics: Fruits & Vegetables” Workshop to Go which shares healthy new ways to use fruit and vegetables to give your meals a flavor boost.
Access great tips on how to minimize school food waste and learn more about the U.S. Food Waste Challenge here.
For more “Go Green for Schools” online resources, please visit the JSI Resource Center. If you come across other programs, initiatives or resources that would be helpful for Massachusetts schools, feel free to share this content with us at email@example.com.
The JSI Resource Center was created to serve as a hub of valuable and reliable school nutrition information to support your ongoing learning and exploration. From recipe inspiration to tips on marketing your school nutrition program and Smarter Lunchrooms, you can turn to the JSI Resource Center to save time and find reliable information which has already been vetted by JSI.
The JSI Resource Center is a one-stop hub for your school nutrition needs.
The JSI Resource Center is continually updated with new, relevant information and is organized in alphabetical order by category so you can scroll down to find the information you are looking for quickly and efficiently. You can find helpful lesson plans, class handouts, calculators and nutrient analysis tools and links to helpful external websites and more. You can also find presentations and training materials that are used in the JSI Workshops to Go.
Visit The JSI Resource Center for presentations and training materials that are used in JSI Workshops to Go
Looking for a topic that is not included in the JSI Resource Center? We are very interested in hearing about it. Please e-mail suggested online resources including the web address to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will do the rest!
One of JSI’s most popular online resources for school nutrition is The A-List. This is a comprehensive and ever-expanding list of snacks and beverages that meet the Massachusetts Nutrition Standards of Competitive Food and Beverages in Public Schools and the USDA’s Smart Snacks nutritional standards, whichever is stricter. The A-List includes an online view as well as a downloadable PDF with 80 pages of “acceptable snacks” with accompanying nutritional information as reference. By using this resource, you can ensure your school selects and offers snack products that comply with federal and state guidelines, encouraging healthy eating behaviors and strong growth and development for students.
The A-List is updated weekly and products added within the last 30 days are highlighted in yellow to allow for easy identification of new options. Additionally, an annual re-evaluation takes place at the beginning of every year where every item on The A-List is re-submitted and re-evaluated – this optimizes the integrity of this valuable resource given the ever-changing number of products available for schools.
All products added within the last 30 days to The A-List are highlighted in yellow.
All A-List products meet the criteria for all levels (Bronze, Silver, Gold and Gold Award of Distinction) of the HealthierUS School Challenge: Smarter Lunchrooms.
The A-List also has a downloadable PDF with 80 pages of “acceptable snacks” with accompanying nutritional information as reference.
If a certain item is not listed on The A-List, you can recommend that the manufacturer or distributor enter it into MassNets, the Massachusetts Nutrition Evaluation Tool for Schools to determine if it meets the standards. If the item passes, they can submit their product information for final approval for the A-List.
To view the most up-to-date version of The A-List and to find the downloadable PDF version, please visit the JSI website. We hope you find The A-List to be a valuable resource for your school and as you look to provide nutritious snacks and beverages to students.
Click image to download USDA poster/sticker JPG
Often times simply changing menu options is not enough to increase participation. Promoting new options is a key step in getting students to choose them. Taste tests for students are a fun and interactive way to gauge how receptive students are to a new recipe before offering it on the menu plus it allows you to get useful feedback that can be used to implement changes in the future. Taste testing exposes children to new and different foods. Did you know that a child might have to try a food up to ten or more times before accepting it?
The Ohio Smarter Lunchrooms Movement Taste Testing Getting Started Guide offers tips to increase student participation in taste tests so that you can get the most accurate assessment of student preferences possible.
- Promote the event with signage to get students excited for taste testing day! Be sure to include appealing features of the item and creative adjectives to describe it.
- Set up the taste testing station in a place that will prompt students as they pass –don’t forget to use verbal prompts to encourage students to taste.
- Ensure that the sample item is visually appealing to students. Fresh, colorful, bite size portions are best.
- Document feedback from surveys, comment cards, student votes, or verbal responses. Click here to download a free taste testing form from USDA.
Mount Clemens, Michigan Broccoli Carrot Salad samples
VT Feed’s Guide to Taste Testing Local Food in Schools suggests developing a food committee of parents and teachers who support the program while other schools have started student clubs that help generate new food ideas that can be used for preliminary testing or to help prepare the food for taste testing day.
Additional taste test resources such as fliers, comment cards, stickers, and posters are available on the Ohio Smarter Lunchroom page. For additional resources on taste testing, visit JSI’s Resource Center.
Left image credit: this image was found on the School Meals that Rock Pinterest page.