Serving Success: Delivering Delicious; Effective Marketing to Steer Parents to School Lunch Programs

A Guide to Successfully Market School Lunches to Parents and Increase Student Participation

Communication is Key

Effective communication is key to keeping parents informed and engaged. There are many styles of communication available, so find out what works best for your school audience. This may include sending home flyers, participating in the school newsletter, or sharing via social media platforms. Be sure to emphasize the importance of school lunches and highlight key events and unique menu items.

Creating the Menu

It is important to create a menu that reflects the students’ preferences and meets the meal pattern requirements. The goal is to offer a variety of options that appeal to different tastes, preferences, and diversity. Be conscious of food allergies as well and provide alternative options for students with specific needs. When creating the menu consider incorporating popular items on a weekly basis– such as pizza on Fridays– while rotating in less popular items bi-weekly or monthly. Scheduling the popular items on the same day of the week allows the schedule to highlight the less frequent items.

Highlight the Time Value

Highlight the convenience and time saved ordering school lunches over preparing lunches at home. When it comes to cost, you may consider sharing the cost breakdown specific to your school, compared to the prices of the homemade or store-bought alternatives. This comparison showcases the price difference and the nutritional value between these options.


Conduct surveys to gather feedback and insights from parents, students, and stakeholders. Surveys provide an opportunity to find out what parents like or dislike about your lunch program. This allows you to gauge satisfaction, identify areas for improvement and collect new ideas to help with your marketing strategies. To assist schools, Gordon Food Service created a Taste Test Survey: Tool Kit.

Adding Visuals

Incorporate pictures of new menu items into the menu. A visual will increase the likelihood of that menu item being purchased. Work with the product manufacturers to see if they already have pictures of the specific item to add to your website.

Social Media Contest

If school policy allows it, incorporate contests or fun challenges relating to lunch items on social media.  This encourages students to share their lunch photos and feature them on the school’s social media page. This can encourage others to try school lunch items and join the contest as well.

Helping the Planet

Share examples of how you are environmentally conscious by composting, recycling, and managing food waste. Highlighting your effort to help the planet is a good way to show parents and students you are mindful about discarding food waste.

Figure out which of these methods would work best for your school and create a timeline to implement them. By putting your ideas in motion you will increase awareness and engagement and boost student participation.

Read Similar Articles: Marketing Menus to Students & Parents, Beefing Up School Breakfast is Smart Thinking, Connecting With Local Community

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