Creative Marketing Sparks Salad Bar Popularity
By Heidi Stimac
Kristen Mcguan’s creative spirit shines through the East Grand School District salad bar program where she has been Food Service Director for the past 3 years. Her favorite part about the program is when she sees students take ideas from the bars home. When kale chips and jicama sticks were introduced to the bar, Director Mcguan received calls from parents asking about recipes for these healthy treats, and she admits that due to high demand it can be difficult to keep enough kale on the bar for students.
East Grand School District, Granby CO
Enrollment: 1350 students
Free and Reduced Rate: 38%
Average Daily Participation: 41%
As a K-12 district, East Grand has to take certain measures to be sure that their younger students understand how to use the bar appropriately. On the first day of school each year, the kindergarteners come down to the cafeteria and learn about how to move through the bar and what to take. Next, the students do a dry run through the bar, and then another dry run the next day to be sure that the students are ready to make the most out of their experience. The first and second graders at East Grand also come down on the first day of school for a quick refresher on how to move through the bar efficiently. Director Mcguan says that as a result of this process, the line speed in the lunchroom is the same as before they had a bar.
Along with their quick lines, the food service team at East Grand works hard to keep parents involved in the school lunch program. Director Mcguan says that the superintendent at East Grand, Frank Reeves, does a great job of keeping staff and parents informed. Newsletters were sent out to parents to inform them about the arrival of new bars. But their involvement with the school lunch program and the new salad bars did not stop there.
Along with being the Food Service Director at East Grand School District, Director Mcguan is also part of the district health committee. The committee decided they wanted to involve parents more actively in the school lunch program, so they devised a Picnic with Parents Program coming soon to all their schools. As a parent herself, Director Mcguan knows that parents don’t love coming to school events after normal work hours. So, the Picnic with Parents program invites parents to come to East Grand schools during the day for a “picnic lunch” incorporating the salad bar and some physical activity. Parents come at lunchtime, grab a brown bag lunch with their children, head through the salad bar line, then sit and eat at tables decorated with traditional white and red checked tablecloths. The “picnic” is followed by recess-exercise led by the physical education department. Since East Grand is located in the snowy mountains of Colorado, past activities have included things like snowshoeing or snowman building contests.
As for marketing the bars at East Grand School District, Director Mcguan takes a special approach to getting kids and teens excited about what the salad bar has to offer. On special occasions, East Grand provides “holiday bars” that color coordinate with the occasion. On Halloween, the bar is decked with clementines, carrots, and whole grain goldfish. Valentines Day? Strawberries and apples. But the creativity doesn’t stop there. East Grand uses punny bulletin boards in their lunchrooms that incorporate kids characters, such as one board that says “There are a *MINION* and one reasons to love school lunch!” with the popular characters drawn below. Students are encouraged to add a little note of their favorite part of the salad bar onto the board. Director Mcguan’s creativity and passion around each of these ideas has led to great salad bar success in the East Grand School District.