Kids are the Customers: Marketing Local Food in Schools


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Marketing local food in your school food service program can be a positive educational experience and a fundraising program for your school. Learn how to create a responsible school food marketing program that is not only directed at students, but includes school administrators, teachers, parents and the community. Also learn how to replace competitive foods (soda pop and other unhealthy vending machine snacks) with healthy, active fundraising campaigns.

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Kids are the Customers: Marketing Local Food in Schools

  1. 1. Kids are the Customers:Marketing Local Food in SchoolsJoan Rozelle, Eat Local Food LLC
  2. 2. Introduction:Marketing to children has always been a commercial endeavorinstead of an educational endeavor.Kid-focused marketing has long had a negative connotationcaused by the commercialization of education by big businessinterested in increased profits. It has been concerned withselling soft drinks and high-caloric low-nutrition foods in schoolsto establish a life long customer relationship at an early age.Needing funds to support school programs, administrators haveopted to improve revenue for the school system in exchangefor exploding obesity rates and a decline in the overall health ofthe student body.
  3. 3. Introduction (continued):Marketing local food in your school food service program canbe a positive educational experience and a fundraising programfor your school.●Marketing for your school food service program shouldresponsible and be directed not only toward the students butalso to school administrators, teachers, parents and thecommunity.●Students should be encouraged to follow a healthier way ofeating and their peers, teachers, parents and communitymembers should be encouraged to support this effort.●Adults in the community have a special responsibility toensure that children are being educated about healthynutritious food choices and not being exploited as a life longconsumer.
  4. 4. “The school systemis where you buildbrand loyalty"John Alm, president,Coca-Cola Enterprises,quoted in The AtlantaJournal-ConstitutionApril 6, 2003."It is easier to buildstrong children thanto repair brokenmen"Frederick Douglass
  5. 5. Marketing School Food●How does marketing take place in schools – What ismarketing school food?●Current School Marketing v. Responsible School Marketing●Competitive Foods – What are they?●Will your school lose funds if competitive food rules aretightened?●Fundraisers for your school and your community –“community tie-ins” v. “corporate tie-ins”
  6. 6. Where Marketing can be found in Schools:1.Promotion of Branded Foods○Brand logos on vending machines○Cafeterias and school stores○Exclusive soda contracts○Fundraising○Incentive programs that provide awardsSource: 2009 Rudd Report School Food Opportunities for Improvement.
  7. 7. Where Marketing can be found in Schools:2. Branded and Sponsored Materials○ Program and activity sponsorship○ Sponsored educational materials○ Corporate sponsorship on scoreboards, sports equipment,bulletin boards, text booksSource: 2009 Rudd Report School Food Opportunities for Improvement.
  8. 8. Transition to Responsible School Food MarketingMarketing is your strategy for allocating resources (time and money) inorder to achieve your objectives (a fair profit for supplying a good product orservice).Propaganda is a form of communication that is aimed at influencing theattitude of a community toward some cause or position. As opposed toimpartially providing information, propaganda in its most basic sense,presents information primarily to influence an audience.Unethical marketing is often geared toward vulnerable groups in society(children and the elderly) and attempts to influence that audience.Responsible Marketing considers social and environmental responsibility aswell as respect for your customers and the message you send to them.Sources:, Entrepreneur Network and
  9. 9. Examples of current marketing to school children:● Misleading children regarding the emotional, social or healthbenefits of a low-nutrition food● Sponsoring sporting and other school events with low-nutritionfoods and brands● Using images of physical activity or healthy foods (fruits andvegetables) to market a low-nutrition food● Linking a childs self image to the purchase of a low-nutritionfood by suggesting they will be more accepted or more popularas a result of the purchase● Exploiting a childs natural tendency to play by using cartooncharacters or toys to promote a low-nutrition foodSource materials extracted from The Center for Science in the Public Interest.
  10. 10. Examples of current marketing to school children:Offering children low nutrition foods as rewards or incentivesfor good behavior or academic successEncouraging students to sell low-nutrition foods in schoolfundraisersShowing films or news programs that engage in productplacement - the practice of showing branded goods that arenot in context with the storyline or news content.Promoting any branded product on school propertySource materials extracted from The Center for Science in the Public Interest.
  11. 11. Responsible School Food MarketingFocuses on reversing the trend established with the currenttype of school marketing.Children and their parents should be respected.School marketing should not interfere with the values parentsare teaching their children.Nutrition standards and the school wellness policy should beconsidered in all school marketing efforts.Students should be presented with clear educationalmessages without persuasive intent or commentary onappearance, acceptance or popularity.
  12. 12. Competitive Foods: What are they?Competitive foods are all foods sold in competition with the National SchoolLunch Program and the School Breakfast Program to children in food serviceareas during the school’s designated lunch or breakfast periods.The consumption of competitive foods is of special concern to those whosupport the school meal programs since children who purchase these foods areless likely to eat a reimbursable school meal.Competitive foods include: extra foods and beverages sold through “à lacarte” lines (which offer other food items for sale alongside the federally-reimbursed school meals); snack bars; student stores; vending machines;and fundraisers (where school organizations sell baked goods or candy to raisemoney.)Competitive foods are often Foods of Minimal Nutritional Value. Examplesinclude carbonated soda, gum, hard candies and jelly beans. Other competitivefoods, such as candy bars, chips and ice cream, are not considered FMNVsand may be sold in the cafeteria during meal periods.(The full report can be found at
  13. 13. Competitive Foods: Will you Lose Funds if you Tighten the Rules?A review of four research studies and three state-based reportspublished in the March 2008 Journal of School Health1found that:• Selling snack foods that meet improved nutrition standards didnot result in revenue loss in 6 out of 7 studies cited. Also knownas “competitive foods,” such snacks are sold in school vendingmachines and on a la carte lines.• There was increased participation in the National SchoolLunch Program after healthier competitive foods were introduced.This brings additional dollars to the schools and can compensate forrevenue loss coming from other areas.• Some school revenue from competitive foods increased afterimproved nutrition standards were implemented, according to otheranecdotal evidence.2Source: The Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity Study. Complete references available at
  14. 14. Replacing funds from competitive foods●Students will choose thehealthy options offeredand there will be noreduction in funding●Students will choose thehealthy options offeredand there will beincreased participation inthe school lunch program●Students will not embracethe changes andalternative fundraisers areneeded
  15. 15. Fundraisers for your school and your communityWhen you conduct a fundraiser, you are sending a message to yourvolunteers and your supporters. That message contains a valuestatement about your school.Your fundraising message should be:● Consistent with your school wellness policy○ i.e., no candy or pop sales● Consistent with a responsible marketing policy○ i.e., no cartoon characters or corporate brands● Supporting "community tie-ins", not "corporate tie-ins"○ i.e., get involved with your community, not large corporationsthat are not locally based. Often corporate involvement isviewed as philanthropy, but it is 100% profit driven.● Supportive of the environment whenever possible○ i.e., dont waste limited resources (water) or create waste.
  16. 16. Marketing Strategies for your School:1. Develop a marketing plan to support your program. Devise a programname, menu, signage, educational information to promote menu items andlocal food2. Create seasonally appropriate theme days involving local food (AppleHarvest Day, Lettuce be Friends with Lunch).3. Celebrate a "Vegetable or Fruit of the Month"4. Post signage that instructs kids to try a new fruit or vegetable5. Implement a non-food reward for students that try a new food (stickers,public recognition in class, 5 extra minutes of recess)6. Plan field trips to local farms and orchards and incorporate lessons aboutthe source of your food.7. Cultivate on-site school garden - use the White House garden as aneducational example.8. Host Local Farmers visiting your school to talk about farming.9. Create family surveys to foster family participation in the program. Keep inmind if you use a family survey you must be prepared to publicly addressthe feedback and your application of that feedback.10. Create games involving local food.
  17. 17. Fundraisers for your school and your community● Establish fundraisers involving localfood and food-themed merchandise.● Host Harvest Lunches and sell ticketsto the entire community● Publish recipe cards and cookbookfrom the school lunch program,encouraging families to eat nutritiousmeals at home.● Publish a school calendar with recipes,food purchasing tips, and food safetytips.● Sell fruit and vegetable themed notecards, postcards, tote bags promotingyour school lunch program.● Sell locally grown flowers for Easter,Mothers Day, Christmas.● Sell heirloom bulbs and uniqueplants to gardeners each fall.
  18. 18. Fundraisers for your school and your community● Sell items that promote physical activity such askites, hula hoops, jump ropes, packages of seeds,window box herb garden kits● A Dance Marathon is another kid-friendly, physicalactivity event. Profits are generated from ticketsales and local food "heart-healthy" concessions.● Have an "earth-friendly" fundraiser. Organizing acommunity cleanup project, is another physicalactivity based fundraiser that sends a positivemessage at the same time. Participants pledgedollars per pound.● Host a weekend specialty sale of a seasonalitem. Examples would be a Pumpkin Patch sale, aChristmas Tree sale, a Spring Flower Bulb Day.● Host a Pancake Breakfast fundraiser at yourschool cafeteria, serving healthy beverages andfresh fruit toppings for the pancakes.
  19. 19. Collaborative Fundraisers with Community MembersCollaborate with like-minded community members forcreative fundraising efforts. Utilize their resourcesand membership base to promote your school lunchprogram.Consider contacting your:● Local food co-ops education and outreachdepartment.○ Co-host a fundraising event and invite the food co-ops membership.● Local farmers market○ Conduct school food/chef demos using localproduce at the farmers market. Hold a raffleduring the school food demos.● Locally owned independent restaurants○ Organize a theme night where local restaurantsdonate a portion of their proceeds to your schoollunch program● Downtown Business Authority or your local businessassociation○ Ask for your school lunch program to be therecipient of their charitable event