New study reveals parents’ views on school meals

Parental control is the No. 1 reason why kids don’t eat school meals.

CHICAGO—To increase participation, child nutrition directors have two audiences to reach—students and parents. A new study released by Datassential reveals the barriers school foodservice programs face when it comes to parents not selecting school meals for their children.

The No. 1 participation barrier is that parents prefer more control over what their kids eat, with 53% of respondents selecting this response. That was closely followed by, my children don’t like/eat the cafeteria options, at 49%.

The study also asked parents what challenges they face regarding cafeteria food at your children’s school? Thirty-nine percent of parents find that short lunch periods are the biggest challenge. Other challenges include: my children don’t like/eat the cafeteria offerings (38%), I prefer more control over what my kids eat (29%), not enough healthy/nutritious offering (29%) and too expensive (29%).

“Schools can increase participation and a la carte sales by offering grab-and-go options, portable foods or to-go containers. Nutrition labels on these options may add to their appeal,” the survey concluded.

The study also looked at attributes that parents say are important when deciding whether or not their children participate in the school lunch program. More than 90% of parents rated taste, quality, nutrition and the number of daily choices as the most important attributes.
 

Attributes

 

Importance Rating (Top 2) Current School Rating (Top 2)
How the food tastes 96% 53%
Quality of the food 95% 53%
Availability of healthy/better for you foods 92% 51%
Choices each day 91% 53%
Quantity/portion size of the food 89% 57%
Filling meals/statisfying hunger 88% 51%
Knowing they will eat what is served 88% 50%
Variety day to day 87% 57%
Overall meal experience 87% 54%
Value for the money 86% 50%
Appearance 81% 52%
Service in the cafeteria 74% 63%
Convenience 71% 68%
Kitchen staff help 64% 62%
Menus available to meet allergy/sensitivity requirements 53% 39%
Information available about the breakfasts 48% 43%
Availability of vegetarian dishes 39% 29%
Availability of dishes for ethnic and/or religious needs 33% 30%

“Clearly, parents value the convenience of school-provided meals over having to pack meals,” the study found. “Schools might increase participation if they bridged the gap in taste and quality. Family involvement in menu ideation, taste testing new dishes and nutritional labeling may go far in gaining parental support.”

More From FoodService Director

Sponsored Content
WinCup foam food containers

From WinCup.

Cost control.

Two little words that are essential to every foodservice director’s day-to-day activities.

Keeping costs in check is paramount in running a functioning food operation, of course. But the ripples of cost control can extend beyond your bottom line. And savvy directors must balance customer satisfaction on the P&L sheet.

Fiscal Responsibility

The foundation of cost control is accepting fiscal responsibility, which requires a solid understanding of foodservice accounting. Prime cost, the combined cost of food and labor, is an...

Industry News & Opinion

Orange County Community College in upstate New York is replacing its dining staff with vending machines , The Times Herald-Record reports.

The staff members, who will be let go in June, include nine full-time and three part-time workers. Students say they will miss the employees and the access to fresh food.

The Orange County Community College Association, which oversees the school’s cafeterias, says the layoffs were partly due to a $150,000 deficit accumulated by foodservice operations last year.

Read the full story via The Times Herald-Record .

Industry News & Opinion

Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, is eliminating paper cups in its Commons dining hall and has given each student a reusable stainless steel mug as a replacement, bates.edu reports.

The mugs were distributed via a promotion earlier this week where students could fill their new mugs with a free smoothie. Stickers and other trinkets were set out for students to use to “bling” their mugs.

Dining services turned to students to determine which type of mug would be offered. The college also installed a mug-washing sink in the dining Commons earlier this year.

Read the...

Industry News & Opinion

Compass has partnered with Jose Andres ’ ThinkFoodGroup, allowing the chef and foodservice vendor to collaborate at such venues as stadiums and college campuses.

“With this partnership, we have the opportunity to tell stories and connect with people through food on an entirely new level,” Andres said in a release.

The three-year team-up comes shortly after Andres opened a ThinkFoodLab pop-up in Washington, D.C., which will serve as a recipe R&D space for his restaurant group.

ThinkFoodGroup was this year named a Power 20 multiconcept operator by Restaurant...

FSD Resources