Over the last year, we’ve seen a need for help with how to market your School Nutrition Program. From local SNA chapter meetings featuring graphic designers talking about branding and marketing, to countless presentations at SNA state highlighting marketing techniques shows the importance of marketing your School Nutrition Program.

Health-e Pro recently presented at the California SNA show on Marketing–and the Washington SNA show back in August–on how to market your school nutrition program in 30 minutes or less each week. Here are some of the highlights that might help you.

Understanding the Basics

The first and most important step is get clarity on your message:

  • What are you trying to communicate?
  • Who is your audience?
  • Can you show your message versus just telling it?

What’s the message you’re looking to communicate? Is it that you offer healthy meals at your school? Lots of options? Salad bars? That eating school lunch is fun?

Identify your main message or messages, and make sure your communications are focused on that. Then identify who your audience is: students? parents? community? all of the above?

Once you’ve identified the message to communicate, you choose the vehicle for that communication. We’ll start with social media.

Social Media For School Nutrition Program Marketing

social media images

Different platforms have different audiences, and understanding those audiences–when combined with the message you want to convey–will help you select which platform is best to market your School Nutrition Program. If you’re looking to reach parents and the community, aim for Facebook, where users skew older. If you’re looking to reach the students, aim for Instagram. Twitter is excellent for those looking specifically for content, whether that’s colleagues in your industry or administrators.

How to Save Time with Social Media

There are a few ways to save time when using social media to market your School Nutrition Program. First, you can schedule posts in advance using a social media aggregator like Hootsuite or Agora, offering free or cost-effective plans that can work for you. With easy-to-use calendars and schedulers, you can spend 10 minutes and get 30 posts scheduled over the next month!

Second, you can share others’ content that’s applicable and informative to your audience. Whether it’s fun, playful, interesting, or educational, sharing or retweeting other great content can be really helpful to your audience. Tied into that is finding other folks to follow, both to share and retweet, and to help get the brain juices flowing to creating your own content.

Here are some accounts we love to follow that we think could help your School Nutrition Program marketing efforts:

USDA Team Nutrition

Farm to School

Dayle Hayles, School Meals That Rock

ChooseMyPlate.gov @MyPlate

School Nutrition Association

What makes a great social media post? Anatomy of a Great Post

As you follow other great content creators in the child nutrition space, you’ll start to get a feel for what makes an impactful social media post. Combine several of these components together, and you’ve got yourself a winner.

  • Pictures
  • Videos
  • Hashtags/Tagging others
  • Content (funny, cute, silly, informative)
  • Emotional
  • Audience

Pictures and/or video are the best ways of showing your message: that you care deeply about the children you serve, that you work hard to ensure they’re getting the best nutrition you can provide, and that you’re having fun creating a special environment for your students. Check out a few of these examples to see how the above elements combine for really entertaining and memorable social media posts–and think how you can combine these elements to market your School Nutrition Program!

Shark Week (SchoolMealsRock):

How fun are these sharks?! You can tell that the folks creating these were having tons of fun–and that makes for an awesome school lunchroom! Dayle is always so great about using hashtags, tagging other engaged accounts, inviting interaction and engagement, and letting the pictures tell the story: school lunch is fun!

Pasta Making with Joe Urban, SchoolFoodRocks:

In this one, Joe Urban, Director of the Food and Nutrition Services for Greenville County Schools, shows–through video–how students in one of their schools get to see house-made pasta for their lunch being made in front of them. Too cool! Here you get a combination of captivating video, fascinating content, and fun emojis, from a district that does a great job of showing their audience–parents, students, the community alike–that they go to great lengths to make sure students are happy and healthy.

School Lunch Hero Day (SchoolMealsRock):

Here you get to see the awesome folks behind one school’s nutrition team, and they’re having a BLAST with School Lunch Hero Day! This is a perfect post to use in a message to parents of your students, so they can be confident that their kids are being served by people who care and are having fun–and making sure the students have fun while getting their nutrition, too! With this post, you’ve got a perfect picture, combined with great hashtags, emojis, and tagging other influential accounts.

Having Fun With Food, @LCPSCafe

This is one of our favorites! When you look at this, do you smile a little bit? Do you think, hey, I could do that at home with my kids, too? And it makes you want to eat these cute little dolphin-bananas, doesn’t it? With just a little bit of effort, slicing the banana stem just right, coloring on a couple cute little eyes, and throwing in some “balls” (aka grapes), you’ve got a really cute, really entertaining fruit snack. This is another great combination of a fun photo, hashtags and tags, while providing an idea that can be done at home–creating more engagement!

Thanksgiving Trays from SchoolMealsRock:

How fun is this one? Again, whenever possible, use pictures! These convey fun and a theme far better than any words can. From making vegetables look even more fun and more appetizing, to offering fruits in a playful and colorful way, these pictures tell an incredible story. You see here another great mix of a fantastic group of pictures, some hashtags, some tags, and some colorful heart emojis–it’s a great combination!

After our presentation at the CA SNA show, I spoke with one audience member who pulled out her phone and showed me all the great pictures she had of their school’s kitchen, of food she liked to create. There are so many great stories you can tell of your nutrition program, and you can share that in marketing through social media and other channels.

Know district’s policies

One last note on social media: do you know your district’s policy on social media? Different districts have different policies, so make sure you’re aware of the rules for yours. Are waivers signed at the beginning of the year by parents for their kids and use of pictures by the district? Are faces of students allowed in pictures? Or just the backs of heads? Be aware of your district’s policies so you can work within those parameters.

What else can I do to market my School Nutrition Program?

Aside from social media, how else can you market your School Nutrition Program

There are a lot of resources available–use them! Get in touch with your PTA presidents and see how you can utilize them to amplify your  message and get it out there. Do they have newsletters? Write a few paragraphs for their newsletter each week!

Work with the teachers in your schools and see how they can help you get the word out. The teachers want their students to be as well-nourished and happy as you do–they’re an incredible resource!

Use signage. This can mean old-school posters that you make or have printed and post around the cafeteria, or it might mean digital signage. More and more districts are going the route of digital signage, and there are a lot of affordable options out there.

Publish your menus online, making them easy for anyone to view. So many parents and students love the convenience of having their school’s menu in the palm of their hand, so make sure your menus are easy to find and share online.