Communicating with students’ mothers doesn’t have to hurt. Conversations don't have to start with a loud phone call or end with ghosted emails and notices. Since moms are just people—believe it or not—with all sorts of lifestyles, each one wants to have a different level of involvement in her children’s school feeding. We reached out to some of the best parents we know, our very own moms on staff, to find out how they prefer to get the lowdown on school foodservice.
1. Balance high-tech with low-tech messages
It seems like moms are not ready to go paperless. Many of the mothers we surveyed still appreciate physical flyers and menus. In fact, the paper menu is part of a few of our moms' daily routines. Heather Stenson, print production manager at FSD’s parent company, says she enjoys getting both print and electronic menus, because if she is running too late to make lunch, she can just refer to the menu posted on the fridge. However, those often get lost in folders, and the menu is not always ready online at the beginning of the month, she says. “An automatic email noting, ‘The September 2016 lunch menus are available. Please click here to order,’ would be nice,” she says. Despite the need for in-house menus and notices, most of our working moms agree that email is their preferred method of correspondence during the week.
2. Get like Grubhub
A big pain point for our moms is meal ordering and payment. These moms think school lunch can take a hint from third-party delivery. At a minimum, moms like Bernadette Noone, VP of programs for sister company Technomic, want alerts of deadline reminders for ordering cutoff dates. Tara Tesimu, the company’s SVP of media products and audience development, wants her ordering system to keep a history of past years’ orders, so that she can choose to select those orders rather than starting from scratch. Abbey Lewis, editor in chief of FSD’s sister magazine Convenience Store Products, wants her kid’s nutrition team to not only alert her when funds are low, but also to give her an option to click on a button and automatically reload. “There’s too much password remembering and too many emails screaming at me that my funds are low,” Lewis says. “Make it easy for me to pay and I will pay. I am way too busy to log on.”
3. Avoid TMI
Many moms are not into hovering. Lewis says messages from her district’s foodservice team are filtered through teachers and administrators. “Otherwise, they don’t really communicate with us at all—which, as a hands-off mother of three, I’m OK with,” Lewis says. “I don’t have time for too much information, and I place a lot of trust in the experts.” Although not all moms want to be pinged for every new happening in the cafeteria, some still want to be surveyed for input. Stenson and Tesimu agree that they would like to be asked for input on things like menus and vendors.
4. Stick to the need-to-knows
Overall, moms just want to know what their kids are eating, and when and how they are going to pay for it. Production Manager Christina Kayalik wishes she knew her kids had healthier options for cash-and-carry days. Tesimu’s son had taken to spicing up his lunch with unhealthy a la carte items and frequently ran out of money. She would prefer some more parental control over what her kids eat. “In an ideal world, I’d love to know what my child ordered that day, week [or] month,” Tesimu says.