Back to School with a Bang: Hot Marketing Tactics for School Nutrition Programs

Primary school children eating a school meal at a table together and smiling back to school marketing tops for school nutrition programs

Can you believe it’s already time to go back to school? Summer flew by way too fast! 

Maybe you had a chance to visit your favorite restaurant this summer or had the opportunity to try a new place in town. Have you ever wondered what it is about a restaurant that gets you in the door in the first place?

Perhaps it’s a trendy logo and branding. Or maybe it’s the food photography they post on Instagram. Another option: it could be the weeknight promo they announced on Facebook. Or maybe it was word-of-mouth from a friend who shared their dining experience on social media. The list goes on and on.

Studying the tactics restaurants use to generate business can help inspire how your nutrition department markets to its students and families. Here are some easy and effective ways to market your school nutrition program to drive greater participation for a successful year.

Let the inspiration begin!

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Source: Lee County Schools

Create a logo and brand students and the school community can identify with. 

Your new logo can be used on uniforms, food trucks, prepackaged meals, or even swag.

A fresh brand and logo will give you a good foundation for creating social media pages for your school nutrition brand.

Lee County Schools in Florida uses their logo on stickers for grab-and-go meals and salads. 

Get social from the start!

Social media is an excellent (and affordable) way to engage your audience–students, families and the school community–in school nutrition. It’s also a great tool for marketing research!

An easy way to find out what students like is using the polls feature on Instagram and Facebook. Simply post a question on your program’s stories and let students do the voting. 

Want to ask more than one question? Awesome! But try to keep it to a minimum; five questions or less keep your audience engaged and moving through your stories.

Pro tip:

Create a branded story template for Instagram and Facebook using Canva, an online design tool for non-designers. It’s a cinch to incorporate your brand or school colors, and you could even add your logo! 

Offer samples at meet-the-teacher night.

Because of the pandemic, chances are good that family members won’t be allowed to visit during lunch or other events. But if your district has chosen to host an in person meet-the-teacher night, it’s a great opportunity to get school meals in front of parents.

Meet-the-teacher night and other on-premise school events are the perfect opportunity to give parents a taste of what’s served in the cafeteria. Ask your administrators to set up a sample station where you can use a digital menu display to share nutritional information or show off your school menu.

Many parents don’t know that products made specifically for schools, reformulated to meet nutrition guidelines. It’s also possible they’re recalling the school lunches of their past, a perception that can be hard to shake. Once parents or guardians buy into you and your program, the chances are their children will also. 

Promotions are your school nutrition program’s friend!

There are numerous, year-round opportunities to run promotions in your cafeteria. National School Lunch Week, National School Breakfast Week, School Lunch Hero Day, and Farm-to-School Month are just a few!

When there aren’t big promotions running, try a smaller promotion. Here are some smaller promotions you can implement quickly and easily:

  • Partner with a vendor to do live taste tests in the cafeteria.
  • Run a social media promotion. Ask students to post a photo and tag your school nutrition program for their chance to win a prize. 
  • Boost team morale and set the tone for the year with a spirit week! Create a theme for each day and encourage the entire school to participate.

Marketing + Your School Nutrition Program = Thriving

Just like you test new products or recipes in your school nutrition program, marketing is all about testing to see what works – there is no right or wrong answer or a one-size-fits-all strategy. Try different tactics to see what works best with your program.

One of the many great things about school nutrition is that we can all learn from each other and cheer each other on. Have a great school year! 

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