Spreading The Word About School Meals

Our School Meals Program Director Robin McNulty, MPH presents "Getting the Word Out: Marketing Your School Meals Program" at the Annual California School Nutrition Association Conference on November 6.

Our School Meals Program Director Robin McNulty, MPH presents "Getting the Word Out: Marketing Your School Meals Program" at the Annual California School Nutrition Association Conference on November 6.

The San Diego Hunger Coalition is pleased to announce that our School Meals Program will now be under the leadership of Robin McNulty, MPH. Robin is an expert in the field of nutrition, for the past 10 years she served as Director of Nutrition Services for the Lemon Grove School District. 
In her new role as School Meals Program Director, Robin will build upon the Hunger Coalition’s recent successes and deep commitment to ensuring children have access to healthy food year-round through school meals and other Federal Child Nutrition Programs. 

Getting the Word Out: Marketing Your School Meals Program is the title of a presentation given by Robin, on November 6th, 2015, at the 63rd Annual California School Nutrition Association Conference. Seventy-five school nutrition professionals attended the morning workshop to learn how to increase participation in school meal programs with low cost outreach strategies. The presentation focused on best practices for outreach methods to raise awareness from the Hunger Coalition and our partners. Here are four of the key outreach methods discussed:

  1. Raising awareness about summer meals programs is most effective when it comes from a trusted entity or word of mouth.  During summer 2015, the Hunger Coalition launched an awareness building campaign to build participation at 5 summer meal sites in Southeastern San Diego through in partnership with San Diego Unified School District. We distributed nearly 5,000 flyers in the surrounding neighborhoods; placed ads in community newspapers; and partnered with local organizations, community leaders, and elected officials to make announcements at community events and in community newsletters. We only saw a slight uptick in participation at the location where the site director – who is well-known in the neighborhood -- distributed flyers himself.  We believe that families need to receive the information repeatedly and, most importantly, from sources they trust.
  2. The Chula Vista Community Collaborative has been extremely successful in spreading the word about school and summer meal programs by utilizing promotoras. This outreach model recruits neighborhood champions to get the word out in a grassroots style.  The trained community members go door to door to provide information about available resources and how to receive the services.   
  3. Technology is a growing strategy for reaching parents and kids.  Over the summer, the Hunger Coalition tested Share Our Strength’s “Text ‘FOOD’ to 877-877” program on our flyers to help people find the closest summer meals sites. Upon entering an address, the program will text nearby locations with information on the meals served and times.  To speak to a person about summer meal site locations, people can also call 2-1-1 San Diego.   
  4. Another technology solution that we highlighted was the Digital School Menus mobile app that San Diego Unified School District and Sweetwater Union High School District are using to feature daily school food menus with nutrition information.  Parents and kids are loving being able to see what their school is serving for breakfast, lunch and supper.  

Lastly, during the share sessions other school districts shared their innovative outreach practices, such as contacting local businesses to post flyers in the store windows and contacting local law enforcement community resource officers to inform about the free summer meal programs. 

Looking for ways to build participation in your school meals program?  The Hunger Coalition can help!  Contact Robin McNulty, Director of School Meal Programs at robin@sdhunger.org or 619-501-7917 ext. 104.