Seelinger and Knutson emphasized the importance of knowing the difference between being informed, being involved and being engaged. Informed parties tell and share info, but there is no feedback. Involved parties provide feedback but only in one direction (ex: the parents to the district). Engaged parties are regularly involved in two-way communication, as questions and feedback can move both directions. There are a few things your district can do to encourage parents to get engaged.
It’s important to engage parents – and students – throughout every phase of child nutrition: the planning, the serving, and even the evaluating. Social media is a great way to engage both students and parents. As we learned in this Marketing to Generation Z eBook, it’s one platform where we can reach both groups. Post photos of your foods, share updates about exciting new programs or ideas you’re bringing, and don’t forget to ask questions and pay attention to the way your audience responds.
Student input groups, focus groups and even taste testing are great ways to engage your students in their child nutrition program. Knutson suggests even testing out potential menu items at your summer feeding sites to see how well they are received. If received well, hooray – you can serve them during the school year! If they don’t go over great, at least you didn’t buy enough to feed the whole school – lesson learned!
Student surveys or polls are also great ways to engage your students. But with free apps like SchoolCafé, you can engage both students and parents with the poll feature. Ask SchoolCafé users to share their thoughts: What pizza would you like to see in the cafeteria? Turkey or ham for Thanksgiving? Chicken nuggets or chicken strips? Using this app (pictured below) allows school nutrition programs to send out polls to find out what their students really want.
When you receive the poll/survey info, don’t forget the final (arguably the most important) step in the process for bringing ideas to life: reviewing and following up. When you effectively implement this step of the process, you are letting your customers know that you value them, and that their voices were heard.