Delivering Great NutritionWed 14 Dec 2011
Story by Amanda Armer
real.fresh: Smart Marketing Supporting Delicious Food In Turlock Unified
The Turlock Unified School District in California is using powerful marketing to help deliver great nutrition to more than 13,000 students.
The district’s school lunch program, branded “real. fresh.” is led by Child Nutrition Director Scott Soiseth. Every week Scott is moving toward fresh fruits and vegetables, introducing truly innovative meat options, and relying on compelling marketing to sell more meals and stay on budget.
Just having a “brand” is fairly unique for school food, and the real. fresh. brand is everywhere, from the speed lines and equipment in the cafeteria, to the sports field scoreboard. The logo is notable for its color palette, a lush and earthy yellow and green. Promotional posters feature witty phrases with images of active people and enticing food. Scott realized back in 2006 that his commitment to health needed to be accompanied by an image that would make his cafeterias a lasting success.
But it’s the food behind that marketing that’s most enticing. Scott is delivering a well-rounded menu on a budget. The latest innovations he is most proud of include rotisserie chicken and “fresh mex” burritos.
“This year,” Scott says, “I introduced our first Rotisserie oven, cooking whole body free range chickens at a high school site, and have now ordered my second Rotisserie for my other high school.”
He also brought in “sustainable grass feed beef” for the fresh mex burritos, deli sandwiches, and hotdogs. “I am in the process of switching our beef patties over to sustainable beef as well,” he added. “Small steps, but we are making progress for fresher products.”
How Can Turlock Afford That Better Food?
By improving the overall food quality and backed by the smart marketing, overall lunch participation by students has gone up. That increased revenue has enabled Turlock to “hold the line on our lunch costs of $2.50, despite an increase of about 2% in food costs for 2011-2012.” Scott is also using about 50% of his USDA commodity entitlement for produce.
To ensure kids buy into the real. fresh. menu, Turlock food services is capitalizing on school gardens, (with a goal of a garden at every school by 2013), Farmers’ Market produce, and peer-to-peer educational activities.
Scott emphasizes that his success has been a series of small changes leading incrementally to a really innovative program. Next up, he plans to do business with 6 local farmers he has identified who can help him meet his produce needs.
The colorful real.fresh. website provides quick access to school menus, nutritional information, and the district Wellness Policy. That Wellness Policy positions food as part of education, emphasizing the provision of appealing, nutritious food while standing firmly that
“good health fosters student attendance and education.”
A commitment to good food and kids’ health leading to smart branding, leading to greater revenue, leading to new possibilities for innovation. Now that’s real.fresh.
To find out more about the Turlock Unified School District and Scott Soiseth’s real. fresh. program, you can check out this great informational video on YouTube.
Turlock Schools Child Nutrition Website.
About the author: Amanda Armer is an undergraduate volunteer for the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation
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