Food service directors work hard every day to make fresh and healthy lunches. Yet, we hear a lot of common concerns. Mainly, that it’s difficult to get the word out about the exciting, innovative things you’re doing with your menus. This makes it hard to compete with the brown bag lunch and the experiences kids can get off-campus.

What if we told you there are tools and strategies that could help you promote your school’s lunch program, improve student participation and help you engage with students?

We recently spoke with Santa Barbara Unified School District (USD), a Nutrislice client since 2017 about that they’re doing to combat that. They gave us some fantastic insights on how they have increased student engagement and excitement in their meal program, so, let’s dive in!

Meet Santa Barbara Unified School District

Santa Barbara USD is comprised of 21 schools and serves over 15,000 meals per day. Before Nutrislice, Santa Barbara USD Food Services struggled to communicate menu changes effectively, which created angst and confusion amongst students, parents, and staff. Their old process required them to manually upload PDFs of their menus each month. Then school secretaries emailed the menus to parents and students. There were several major concerns with this process, including inefficiency, timeliness, accuracy, and significant paper waste.

How Santa Barbara Unified School District Spread the Word About Their Lunch Program

If you’re willing to get creative and engage with the students at your school, then you’re going to have a high chance of increasing participation in your school’s lunch program.

Santa Barbara USD told us that they do cooking classes with the students in the classrooms to get them excited about upcoming menu items. These programs have been incredibly successful. Even more popular are SBUSD’s taste test events, which allows students to try new offerings and provide feedback.

Another way Santa Barbara USD increased student participation was by implementing digital menus via the Nutrislice app. Once they spread the word about this implementation, they increased student participation by over 2,000%!

Santa Barbara USD also implemented Nutrislice digital signage in many of their schools. They captivate student attention with digital signage with slides about new fruits and vegetables they use to create lunches and their farm to table approach to lunch.

The Impact Santa Barbara Unified School District Saw When They Went Paperless

Before using Nutrislice, Santa Barbara USD used to have the school secretaries email out the lunch menus to all the students. Many times, the parents or students would print out the menus. This inevitably resulted in a lot of paper waste/

When they implemented Nutrislice’s digital menus, Santa Barbara USD made an announcement that they were going paperless and that all the current menus were available on the Nutrislice menu site or via mobile app. The students, parents and staff were pleased with this initiative, and the school district felt great about reducing paper waste. They even got emails from parents thanking them for being environmentally friendly.

If you want to follow Santa Barbara Unified School District’s lead, you can advertise the fact that you’re going paperless with your meal program by sending out emails and distributing a customizable flyer that we created and you can download it here.

How Santa Barbara Unified School District Captivated Students and Delighted Parents

A lot of the feedback that Santa Barbara Unified School District received was that parents and students love being able to filter menus on the app based on food allergens and dietary restrictions. Implementing digital menus allows students and parents to view menus from anywhere, at any time. This also gives parents the opportunity to be more involved with what their children eat.

As we discussed earlier, Santa Barbara USD uses digital signage to captivate and educate students while they’re in the cafeteria. Students report that they like learning about where their food comes from.

Key Takeaways from Santa Barbara Unified School District

We’ve just gone over a lot of information on how you can get students, parents and staff more engaged in your lunch program so let’s break it down to a list of lessons that can be learned from this post:

  1. Get more involved in the classrooms through food education and/or cooking demonstrations and taste tests
  2. Make an announcement that you’re going paperless and funnel students, parents, and staff to the Nutrislice app where they can view current menus from their tablets or phones
  3. Utilize digital signage to teach students on how fresh and healthy your lunches are
  4. Promote the fact that you’re using the Nutrislice app via email, social media, newsletters and press releases
  5. Allow students to filter their meal choices by allergens or dietary restrictions because that will make them more likely to participate in your lunch program

Do you have any questions about using Nutrislice’s suite of tools to increase participation in your meal programs? Feel free to ask us anything in the comments below and we look forward to chatting with you!