How Technology Impacts Your Meal Program: Five Ways to Stay Ahead of the Game

Posted by Renee Pisaturo on Apr 19, 2018 1:04:00 PM


With an estimated 40% of parents between the ages of 38 and 18, millennials are part of an ever growing parent population in K-12 schools. This generation of the early cell phone adopters, now Facebook, Snapchat and tweet constantly, turn to Alexa for daily problem solving, and require Uber as a main source of transportation.  With the increasing reliance on convenience-based technology as a part of daily life, here are some ideas to help engage with your parents and promote your meal program in the digital age:

1. Assess Your Meal Program's Virtual Footprint

Parents go to a website or app for their first source of information. Does your meal program have a website? Is it mobile friendly and easy to access? How do you share your meal menus there? Making your website easy and attractive can help parents and students understand the message and culture of your meal program. If your website is outdated, consider working with your IT department for a face-lift. Also, make sure you have an easy way to find links from your district's homepage so visitors can quickly navigate to your school nutrition page(s).


2. Examine The Competition

A 2015 Pearson study found that more than half of all students from 4th grade and up use a smartphone regularly. Students having access to outside food sources, with delivery methods such as Ubereats, can have a significant impact on their choice to participate in school meals.  This tech convenience can allow food to deliver to a student by the time the lunch period begins. Consider offering mobile ordering for food items in your cafeteria to boost participate.


 3. Collect Feedback 

Gathering information will help students rank food choices, so you can make informed decisions on what to offer and how to improve.  Taste testings and surveys are great ways to ask students and parents about what they like or dislike about school meal choices. Consider hosting an event to offer tastings of new food items at the start of the school year. Distribute surveys regularly to help rank your choices and collect feedback - you can even offer small incentives for those who participate! Easily create free online surveys through tools such as SurveyMonkey or Google Forms.


4. Consider Mobile Options for Students & Parents 

Figuring out how to leverage technology to promote school meals will help encourage student and parent participation while helping staff get students through the line faster! Is your lunch program communicating your meal choices electronically? Does your program offer online or mobile meal payments?  These options are becoming increasingly necessary as lunch periods are getting shorter. Your staff are competing against the clock meanwhile hungry students want time to sit and eat with friends. Offering mobile payments, with a service such as MySchoolBucks, allows your parents to pre-pay for student meals, reducing the amount of cash and checks at your lines. Services like MealViewer help communicate school menus and allergy information online with a mobile app or on digital signage.


5. Improve The Lunch Line Journey 

What is the experience for students when they are waiting or passing through the line? How is your food on display? Do you have labels on your meal choices? Consider labeling your lunchroom and meal choices with colorful and bold signage. Encourage your staff to enthusiastically engage with students as they are making decisions on their meal purchase. Play music! Students will enjoy hearing a familiar tune while waiting their turn. Also, think about where your POS stations are positioned and how to avoid crowding. See if you can set up several stations in an area so students can get out of line and pay faster.


Get Ready for the 2018-19 School Year!  Do you use MySchoolBucks for your meal program? Your FREE MySchoolBucks promotional materials are now available to order to help you share the benefits with parents at the start of the school year! All new items are now available including flyers, mobile app handouts and magnets. Place your order today

Connections Blog

Topics: School Lunch, MySchoolBucks, MealViewer