How Social Media Can Bring More Students into Your Cafeteria

As students head back to school this fall, are you and your food service program prepared for the excitement and business of the first few weeks back from vacation? Are all of your data rollovers complete? Have you tested all of your tech to make sure it won’t cause slowdowns in the first days of school? Are you using social media to push your involvement in your school lunch plan?

You may not think of social media as a way to drive participating in school lunches, but some schools are using it to great effect. Take the example of Colorado State University, where the school dramatically improved participation in the meal plan by advertising a certain number of gourmet meals that would be available at a particular time and place.

How can social media benefit your food service program? Let’s take a look.

Promote Certain Items to Increase Student Interest

Let’s say that you have a glut of a particular ingredient in the pantry, and are trying to increase purchasing of a certain dish, so that the supply doesn’t go bad. In the past, you might have made some sort of sign or flyer offering a discount or promoting the item. Try putting it out on social media instead. Tell them how great it is, offer a discount for those who preorder their school lunch, or just increase participation by reminding them of the convenience of the school’s food service program.

If you’re working with a younger student population, you could offer stickers to those who try a new food, like this Farm to School program did in Mississippi.

Increase Online School Lunch Preorders

Encouraging students to preorder their lunches online can save your district a ton of paper, frustration, and planning time. For younger students, the target can be their parents, and for older students, they may be able to complete a school lunch preorder on their own. But however you get the preorders completed, you’ll be able to better plan for the food you have in the freezer, the pantry, and needing to be used. You’ll experience less waste and keep costs down, which can help your food service department run more smoothly for everyone, students and employees alike.

Consider Which Social Media Platforms Are Best for Your District

If you’re tempted to start exploring your options for bringing your food service program’s marketing online through social media, make sure you’re well aware of which social media platforms the kids in your district, or their parents, use. Hardly anyone uses Facebook anymore with any seriousness, especially kids. Colorado State University found the best connections with their target kids through YikYak and Snapchat. They also found useful connections on the subreddits specific to their school.

Talk to the kids in your district, and find out what messages would reach them, then target those services. This way, the message will get where it’s needed.

Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment

For a lot of social media advertising, the only thing it’s going to cost you is time, and the benefits to improving the number of school lunches preordered, as well as the overall participation in the school’s food service program, are huge. By reaching out to students and building connections with both them and their parents, you increase the perception of the program as being interested and involved in the health of the kids you serve. Be willing to try new strategies and new ways of connecting so that new students can find their way into your food service program and enjoy the benefits of healthy meals.

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