We are often asked now we have managed to accomplish this... and honestly, it's not one single thing that has lead to our success, but a whole bunch of strategies that we have implemented... and that we continue to implement... that have really changed School Nutrition in our district, RSU #14 in Maine. It all started with vision. 5 years ago, we were fortunate enough to have a visioning meeting, funded through a grant we had received. We invited community members, members of our administrative team, school nutrition staff, school staff and school committee members. Through this visioning meeting we established our vision and our goals for the way forward.
Now, I'm not saying that you need to have a fancy visioning meeting to establish your mission and vision, though for us, it was very helpful. It is essential, however, to sit down with key staff members and map out your mission and vision for the future. A mission & vision can serve as your roadmap and guide as you make decisions that will effect your department. One key decision that was made at our visioning meeting was a decision to consider adding a chef to our school nutrition team. We did not rush right out & hire a chef after this meeting.... but when presented with the opportunity to replace a key, district-wide staff person, we utilized the opportunity to fill that position with a chef who could work district-wide with our team.
Another key strategy that came out of our visioning meeting was to increase our focus on local food, farm to school and school gardens in our School Nutrition Program. Increasing our offerings of local foods - locally grown veggies, as well as locally raised meat - has really helped us to bring the freshest food possible to our customers - the students in RSU#14.
These changes - hiring a chef & focusing on locally grown & locally produced foods - didn't happen immediately after our visioning meeting, nor, once implemented, did they immediately lead to increased participation. Of course, we needed a way to "get the word out"... a way to inform our customers that our program was changing and we were offering fresher, more delicious food! Enter social media....! As our school nutrition program was changing and so many exciting things were happening, we decided to start a Facebook Page for our School Nutrition Program as a way to document the changes and communicate with the public. The rationale was fairly simple... I was using Facebook personally and I knew that so many other parents, moms especially, were using Facebook daily, and often from their mobile devices. What better way to communicate with our community and show them pictures of what was happening in our kitchens than by using a social media platform that they were already using daily! It was easy, it was accessible, it was free... so we started our Facebook page. Gradually, we also started Instagram & Twitter pages and we continue to use these social media platforms and grow our audience.
Our marketing strategies don't stop at utilizing social media. We also strongly believe in offering fun,
|Frozen Fun Friday Breakfast|
From our visioning meeting way back in 2012 to back-to-school in 2017... it is all about hard work, dedication and team work! It will not happen overnight, and it may not happen in a year... we are 5 years down the road, and we've made so many changes! Who knows where the next five years will take us! Our fantastic team believes that healthy food fuels hungry minds and we are dedicated to our vision. Teamwork is what it takes to make the dream work.
|Very Veggie Culinary Boot Camp|
with Chef Sam & School Nutrition Staff from RSU#14