Marketing and Promotion

IMG_2505Now that you have crafted your Farm to School (F2S) program and are ready to implement, it helps to not only have faculty and staff behind the program – you must get additional buy-in from the students, parents and the local community, too!

One of the first steps is to market your F2S program. Remind everyone when special things are happening; if next week is the week the school cafeteria will feature Georgia Grown peaches and chicken thighs, you’ll want to showcase this information beforehand to get everyone excited about it! Hang a few posters around the halls and post small tabletop tents around the cafeteria to let people know what’s coming. By incorporating the F2S program from the classroom to the cafeteria (for example, learning about Georgia’s poultry industry the week before featuring locally produced chicken thighs on the menu), and marketing this information throughout the school, you are creating a culture of agriculturally minded faculty, staff and students.

Consider a few promotional concepts that can be used year-round, such as:

  1. Have a “Monday morning meeting” with students to inform them of local food being served during the coming week. Tell them about which farmer(s) the products came from and a little bit about how those products are being incorporated into the school lunch menus.
  2. At the beginning of each school year, kick off your F2S program with an assembly. Bring everyone together – faculty, foodservice staff, farmers, extension agents, parent volunteers and students – and bring excitement to the program on an annual basis. Host a “vegetable toss” for competing grades, have students vote on which colored bell pepper they like the most (green versus red versus yellow, etc.) and incorporate other ways to get the school geared up for the year and all the great F2S activities that will be implemented. See the “Plan a Taste Test Event” at the end of this section for tips on this additional promotional activity.
  3. Include routine updates in your school newsletter, or any other promotional materials that reach parents. Provide information about how (and which) local farmers are being utilized to provide new and exciting nutritionally beneficial food items in the school. To see other Georgia examples, view the Habersham County F2S blog and the Decatur City Schools F2S blog. Also sign up for the Georgia Organics e-newsletter to see what’s happening around the state (and use it for ideas for your newsletter).
  4. Create a F2S bulletin board in an area where students will see it often and feature photos, farmer stories, students’ feedback, recipe ideas using locally sourced products, etc.
  5. When there are school events (such as plays, holiday concerts, parent-teacher conferences, etc.), use a display board to showcase some of the latest things happening with your school’s F2S program. Incorporate information about the F2S program into these events to reach families and increase their awareness of your work.
  6. Use traditional print and radio media, when feasible and affordable. Your community’s local news outlets, plus agriculture-focused outlets, will be apt to pick up different F2S news for their next deadline. See the Communications Toolkit for sample ideas.
  7. Prepare a presentation about your F2S program and share it with different audiences whenever possible. Plan to give your school board an annual update (if not more often); it will help give them, along with parents and the community who attend the board meetings, a better understanding of what goes into a successful program. Also share these updates with other schools when you have an opportunity, because many will be interested to learn about your experiences.
  8. As an advocate for your school, you can always find informal ways to include what you are doing with F2S in everyday conversations. Next time someone asks you what’s new, tell them about F2S!

Plan a Taste Test Event:

Taste testing specific products and recipes with students is a great way to see how the items will be received before actually adding them to the menu. Consider planning one taste test event a year (or even quarterly), as a promotional tool to introduce students to new items. If possible, encourage the farmer who is providing product to attend the event and give students an overview about the item, and how it came from the farm to the cafeteria. Here are some tips to plan your next taste testing:

Bright Ideas for Taste Test Success – View this video from Georgia Organics for ideas on conducting a successful taste test.

Taste Test Guide – Created by Georgia Organics, this guide offers tips on how to implement a successful taste test event at your school to promote F2S efforts and the products the program is highlighting.

A Guide to Taste Testing Local Food in Schools – A comprehensive guide to implementing a taste testing program in your school, including a sample timeline, case studies from taste tests in the cafeteria, classroom, and through afterschool programs, from Vermont Food Education Every Day.

Farm to School Taste Tests in School Cafeterias – A quick start taste-testing guide for chefs, parents and cafeteria and school staff, from the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

Wisdom from Others:

Here are some Georgia-specific resources that can help promote your F2S program:

Ag in the Classroom – This program works to increase agricultural literacy among children and the general public through free tools and resources for more effective teaching about agriculture and its role in an interdependent society. The tools are designed to assist Georgia’s educators in implementing the instruction of agriculture-related concepts in the classroom.

Visit the Athens F2S website and check out the Clark County School District Nutrition website, which includes staff with which you can network and school lunch menus from the current year, which can provide ideas for your program. Consider using a webpage such as this as an outreach and marketing tool for your school district.

Farm to School Nutrition Staff Workshop Video – Created by Georgia’s own City of Decatur Schools, this video provides an overview of how one school system is implementing F2S with staff and students. Consider this not only as a resource, but as an idea for how you can promote your own program. A short video can be simple to put together, and is a great addition to any presentation discussing your F2S efforts.

Feed My School for a Week – From the Georgia Department of Agriculture, the Feed My School for a Week Initiative increases farm to cafeteria options for Georgia schools, and helps districts build their farm to school programs.

Resources for Students – Georgia Organics has compiled a great selection of farm to school videos created by kids across the U.S., along with science project ideas that tie into F2S initiatives and inspiring examples of youth-led programs that will hopefully help get your district’s student body motivated to help with the movement.

Additional resources from around the country also include some of the following examples:

Farm to School – Promotional items such as “I dig my farmer” posters, aprons and point of service items to highlight your farm to school foods, from the National Farm to School Network.

Free Tasting Lessons – Free and fun bilingual produce tasting lessons, from Cooking with Kids, Inc.

Growing Minds – Provides lesson plans, a children’s literature guide, farm field trip ideas and recipes in Spanish and English, from the Growing Minds Farm to School Program.

Harvest for Schools – Promotional posters and newsletters showcasing a variety of fruits and vegetables, from the Oregon Department of Education.

“HealthierUS School Challenge” Promo Materials – Encourage your school to take the HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC). Resources include templates that can be personalized for your district, including a press release, flyer, brochure, sample letter for parents and previous success stories, from the USDA.

Marketing Local Food – This guide to promoting local food in your area was created in Minnesota and uses many examples of promoting local food. Pages 61-68 pertain directly to institutional food service and farm to school, by the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture.

Minnesota Agriculture in the Classroom – Online source for ordering classroom materials, such as educational placemats and bookmarks, for children’s use, from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

National Farm to School Month Resources – Plan to participate in National Farm to School Month (every October) and utilize the free resources here, including an explanation of the current year’s Farm to School Month activities.  Resources available include logos, posters, and a communications toolkit with a sample press release you can update for your own school and F2S program, suggested social media posts, sample text for newsletters and ideas and tips for making media pitches in your community. Check out the rest of the main site for other ideas and tips on promoting your program year round.

National School Lunch Week – During the middle of October, National School Lunch Week happens. This site provides resources, activities and promotional ideas and materials for your school to consider using during this dedicated week, and year round.

Promoting your Farm to School Items (VIDEO) – This video explores how relationships and partnerships can support F2S efforts and provides some specific step-by step guidance for promotion and marketing. The viewer is given examples of other school’s promotion efforts and a variety of resources are provided to help their promotion efforts.

Promoting Your Program – From the USDA Food and Nutrition Service, Farm to School Planning Toolkit; explore tips and resources for promoting your farm to school efforts.  Examples include fun interactive ideas such as “farmer trading cards,” posters, a “Harvest of the Month” project, a website designed to introduce the school and community to the farmers growing food for the F2S program, and sample lunch menus for parents that can be sent home monthly with a school letter outlining F2S efforts, the district’s wellness policy, recipes and more.

Rethinking the School Lunch Guide – This free download is a planning framework that explains the rationale for reforming school food. See page 54 for the start of the “Marketing and Communications” section, which is designed to help promote healthy meal programs.

School Lunch Superhero Day – Inspiring examples from lunch staff across the country including posters, books and other nutrition and food resources to order for students at Learning Zone Express.

Information adapted from:

University of Minnesota Extension. “Minnesota Toolkit for School Foodservice: Getting Started.” Retrieved Oct. 2013, from http://www.extension.umn.edu/food/farm-to-school/.