Marketing in a Low Free and Reduced District: Lessons Learned at #ANC18

Marketing in a Low Free and Reduced District: Lessons Learned at #ANC18
Editorial Team

It has now been one month since thousands of school nutrition professionals and industry representatives gathered in Las Vegas to discover Bright Ideas. The SNA 2018 Annual National Conference was an exciting event with leaders and innovators sharing the latest trends in the exhibit hall and in the classroom. The Horizon Software Team made a point to attend as many education sessions as we could, and I wanted to share some takeaways from a particularly interesting session.

You may remember Stefanie Dove from Episode 10 of Gab ‘N Go Podcast. In that episode, Stefanie shared tips to maximize your staff’s time at conferences and how to prepare a marketing plan for National School Lunch Week. At ANC, Stefanie led a Precon, two education sessions and an #OpenSpace session. In the education session I attended, she shared how to strategically market in a low free and reduced district.

Stefanie is the Coordinator of Marketing and Community Outreach at Loudon County Public Schools, a district of only 17% free or reduced students. Her three favorite concepts to promote her program while avoiding the stigma of free or reduces lunches are Farm to School, Taste it Thursday and Fear Factor Friday. These programs are open to the entire district, so all students can participate without the fear of being singled out.

She continues with promotions that market to the entire district including posters of fun stats on food usage and production. These posters are even designed by the district’s high school students! They also test unique menu items, such as edible baking dishes or waffle cones for fruit. They engage with students via student panels and taste tests, as menu items are more likely to be well received when there is student input.

In the lunchroom, grab ‘n go and carts are quick and easy, giving students more social time, with shorter lines. Stefanie noted that the carts are not only convenient, but they look nice – presentation matters to all students!

And regarding promotions that are targeted to parents, the district builds their image on social media. There, Loudon County School Nutrition Services highlights the food brands they are using in their schools. When parents see that the brands they trust at home are served in the cafeterias, it combats the myth that school lunch is less than delicious and healthy, which we know it is! Stefanie also uses Facebook Live to engage with parents and to proactively market their program.

Follow Stefanie and Loudon County School Nutrition Services on FacebookInstagram and Twitter to continue to be inspired by their district’s efforts. And if you are a member of School Nutrition Professionals Facebook Group, you’ll be sure to see links for Stefanie and Amanda Venezia’s (Gab ‘N Go Podcast Episode 9) weekly show, #LiveFromMyDesk, where they discuss school nutrition innovations.

Thank you, Stefanie, and all of the ANC Speakers for sharing your knowledge with us; we look forward to seeing you next year in St. Louis!