Marketing Your Program

Overview

Marketing your school food program is paramount for reaching and maintaining your district’s wellness goals. It will elevate the significance of your work by educating the community about what you are doing to improve the school food system.

When you inform your school and the public about the vegetables that you’re planting in the school garden, or the local farmers that you support, or the events that you’re hosting in the cafeteria, you are not only providing them with news, you are also encouraging them to get involved—whether that’s reinforcing the message at home, or actually taking on a participatory role.

Branding Your Program

A good marketing strategy is only as strong as the brand that it represents. In school food, branding your program can help instill your message and mission. Fresh, healthy food is in competition with processed, food-like-substances, so how are you going to distinguish your brand from something a student might find in a vending machine or at a fast-food outlet? A logo for your program can go a long way; it can play off of your district’s existing logo or stand out on its own. Either way, having a recognizable symbol attached to your marketing messaging is key. The following examples may help inspire your direction:

District Communication

Now that you have a brand (and a logo) in place, what do you do with it? First, you’ll want to include it on all of your own marketing materials, and then you’ll want to explore all of the other district communications in which your program could be promoted. Here are some good places to start:

  • District Website: A dynamic, informational website is a useful tool in bolstering your program’s authority in the community. Work with your school district to make your web presence strong and transparent. 
    Example: Minneapolis Public Schools (MN)
  • Newsletters: Newsletters are a great way to cover a little more ground. Be it monthly, bi-monthly, or even quarterly, your presence and transparency will be appreciated. Here you can feature food service staff members, local farmers, upcoming event, and much more. 
    Example: Oakland Unified School District (CA)
  • Menu Calendars: Take this opportunity to really showcase your efforts. A well-designed, vibrant menu calendar will capture the attention of students and parents. Incorporating both student artwork and “Harvest of the Month” facts is terrific way to engage and educate the student body. See our Art Contests page to learn how to host a menu calendar art contest. Example: Boulder Valley School District (CO)
  • Posters and Signs: These can be used in the cafeteria for marketing as well as for food education. Visit our Posters and Signs section to see some examples of useful signage that can be downloaded for use in your cafeteria. 
  • Recipes: Developing and tasting recipes on a regular basis is a smart way to get kids involved and familiar with new items. Once a recipe is developed, make it available to the whole school community. This way, when students tell their parents about what was served for lunch that day, parents can make the recipes themselves. Instilling your menu and values in the home will garner further acceptance at school. 
    Example: Minneapolis Public Schools (MN)
  • Promotional Materials: Always put your logo on promotional materials—stickers, water bottles, aprons, hats, the list goes on. These items can be given away as contest prizes, worn by your staff and volunteers, used for fundraising, and showcased at community events. 
    Example: Boulder Valley School District (CO)

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Social Media Platforms

We live in a world where constant updates are not only accepted, they are also expected. Social media platforms--sites like Facebook, Twitter, and even Instagram--are excellent tools for growing public awareness and engagement in your program. Utilize these free tools to reach out to your community as well as other schools, organizations, and businesses. There is an immeasurable opportunity to learn and share across these networks. Here are some examples of school food programs that are using social media:

Photos

Compelling photos and other media content that highlights your success in the cafeteria will enhance your marketing communications. Always plan to capture special events and even daily operations so that you can feature them in social media, newsletters, and promotional materials. Kids trying a new vegetable or planting their first seed are priceless moments that embody the excitement and significance of your work.

Note: If you plan to share any pictures, videos, etc. that include images of people, proper measures should be taken to acquire permission from guardians of students as well as any adults featured in the images. Most districts have media policies in place for this, so check with your administration on what procedures to follow.

Funding and Partnerships

Finding the monetary resources for marketing outreach isn’t as difficult as you might think. Grant funds and fundraising—with the sole intent of marketing and educating the community about your school lunch program—are becoming more and more prevalent in the K-12 arena. Don’t miss out on these opportunities. This includes creating partnerships with community foundations, state departments, and local businesses that share your values in order to pool resources and increase your rate of success.

LUNCHROOM EDUCATION ACTIVITIES

Turn you cafeteria into a classroom with our Lunchroom Education activities.

From the Blog

Food Family Farming Alum-Sunny Young

Sunny Young, Program Director for Good Food for Oxford Schools and founder of Edufood Consulting LLC, a school food reform consulting firm, can honestly say she learned from one of the best in her field. A Food Family Farming alum, Young began her...

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