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Grabbing their Attention

Strategies for Engaging Students in the Cafeteria

When I first started cooking professionally, I was living in New York City. My love affair with food centered on the Union Square Market when I shopped for the restaurants where I worked. It was there that I connected the flavors to the farmer. I have carried that local connection with me as I moved from restaurants to schools—bringing local flavor to our school meals is one of the most rewarding aspects of school food change work that the Chef Ann Foundation supports.

If your district is cooking from scratch and using salad bars, the potential for transitioning significant amounts of procurement to local ingredients increases exponentially. Of course, student participation in meal programs is key to this whole process, especially for sustaining local food purchases, so marketing farm to school to the kids provides motivation and interest for them to eat school lunch.

School districts all over the country have their favorite marketing and education techniques to engage students and develop that lifelong passion for local food. I recently queried the The Lunch Box Advisory Board to see what their favorites were and these floated to the top.

Farmers…and Stickers!

Sunny Young is one of the National Farm to School Network state leads in Mississippi and queen of all things farm to school in the Oxford School District. Young led the establishment of Good Food for Oxford Schools, which has been working to improve cafeteria menus, connect kids to food through gardening, and bring farmers to the cafeteria when their food is served on the line. When students try new foods, they are rewarded with a sticker. It’s hard to resist a “tasting” when the person who grew the crop is there and a sticker will follow!...

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