The value of partnerships, marketing, and culinary support for school food success in East Grand and beyond
By Rainey Wikstrom, Marketing Consultant, LiveWell School Food Initiative
As we jump headfirst into the 2017-2018 school year, it’s remarkable to witness organizations across the state coming together to strengthen the work of Colorado’s school food leaders. Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting East Grand School District in Granby, CO, a mountain community near Winter Park, where a shining example of partnership unfolded.
School Food Initiative Chef Consultant Chris Hazel and I were visiting Kristen McGuan, Food Service Director at East Grand, to enhance the culinary and marketing aspects of the district’s meal program. Chef Chris was there to support with an inventory project, and I was there to help Kristen take advantage of “back to school” time as a key promotional opportunity. Upon arrival, Kristen was amidst a series of “kick start” trainings with the Colorado Department of Education’s Office of School Nutrition. Having both the support of the School Food Initiative and CDE at that moment gave me an overwhelming feeling of gratitude as we start the new schoolyear.
The commitment and traction around improving school food in East Grand School District is clear—and beautiful to witness. The district joined the School Food Initiative in 2016 and in just one year their accomplishments include:
- The addition of more fresh fruits and vegetables on the menu
- An increase in the number menu items prepared from scratch using whole ingredients
- A focus on breakfast program expansion and participation
- The increase in the number of salad bars offered in her schools
Targeted marketing efforts are key to improving the outdated public perception of school lunch and attracting more students. As a Marketing Consultant for LiveWell’s School Food Initiative, we have developed over 45 free tools to make it easy for Food & Nutrition Service Departments to market their school meal program. In Kristen’s case, we used a sample Press Release Tool to prepare a short article for the local newspaper, highlighting the changes from year to year in the program. We also used our Back to School Letter Tool to prepare a letter to students’ parents that included the school foodservice team’s accomplishments in making school meals healthier. Chef Chris and I also served as thought partners around website enhancements, which Kristen was able to make on the spot with her teammate Tina. We left Kristen with the culinary and marketing tools that are essential to the success of any school food program.
As I drove back to Denver, I reflected on the myriad partners that are providing reinforcements to Food Service Directors so that healthy food becomes the norm for our students. It is these budding relationships and robust collaborations that help shape the future of school food. It is the partnerships we share with the CDE, the Colorado Health Foundation, Wellness Coordinators, the Chef Ann Foundation and so many others that that are underpinning of a greater collective impact for our kids and communities in Colorado. Let this school year continue to support our tireless Food Service Directors, like Kristen, so they can continue making a difference in the lives of students, one meal at a time.
Children spend half their waking hours and consume up to 50 percent of their calories at school. For low-income students, the percentage is even higher. That’s why LiveWell’s School Food Initiative works to ensure all Colorado kids have access to great-tasting fresh and healthy meals in school.