Most of the school foodservice professionals I have met (over the years) are very humble people. This is a noteworthy attribute, however, I ask them all one important question.
Do you want to raise participation? Their answer is always “YES”. I then follow up with question number two. “Why aren’t you bragging about your program and what your teams’ do on a daily basis?”
Sadly, few people (outside of the FNS staff themselves) know the “good work” and widespread improvement of school foodservice operations. The reason? The majority of FNS staff says that they do not want to gloat, brag or boast. I totally get it and I had to go through this entire process myself as an FNS operator.
But, can we humbly inform those who need to know? Is it possible to “tell our story” without seeming arrogant and boastful? I believe we can and should, because unfortunately there are many people who do not understand our field, and they make assumptions that are totally wrong.
I have worked with parents in focus groups who share stories about school lunches, and their opinions and beliefs are based on their own experiences. Problem? Well yes, since the last time they ate in a cafeteria was 15 to 20 years ago! School lunch has changed dramatically in the last 3-5 years, and even more recently.
Unless your district has a strong branding concept in place (like a Chipotle or Chic-Fil-A, for example), you are going to have to work a little harder to attract your customers.
There is no better person to tell your story than you! I (as a fellow FNS colleague) know you have more nutritious food than most fast food/retail establishments. But do your customers know that? I suggest that you “Take the Bull by the Horns” and let them know why you are the best spot in town.
Talk about value versus cost, why their child isn’t treated like a number-but with love, and how they receive a well-balanced healthy meal. Fortunately, this can be done humbly and still be effective.
You are the author of your book (or program, in this case) and only you can tell the story! Good luck and keep moving forward.