Mary Anderson was serendipitously at a lunch table when the future of Wayzata School District’s food program inspiration struck.
The supervisor of the Culinary Express program was tossing around ideas with a bunch of local colleagues at the School Nutrition Association national conference in Dallas last July when the topic of social media came up, and Anderson suggested a tool to make her menus more convenient and accessible for parents—specifically, an iPhone app.
“We certainly understand that parents are extremely busy,” she says of the program’s initial goals, which launched in November. “We need to be reactive to what our community needs, and that’s what we are hoping to do.” With the help of Minneapolis design and technology company Abel Creative, the school district rolled out the free app (get yours today at culinaryexpressmobile.com) to immediate success. Users have access to the district’s lunch menus, nutritional analysis, ingredient labeling and payment structure—anywhere, anytime.
“People are checking the menus the most, so that’s the biggest perk,” Anderson says, noting she receives monthly feedback on usage and viability from Abel. “I’ve had comments back from parents saying it eliminates the ‘there’s nothing to eat at school’ discussions around the dining room table.”
Yet the future of the project has yet to be written. Anderson is hoping to get a full 80 percent usage, and she’s already sharing the concept with other local school districts. Her team goes into more discussions with Abel on how to roll out addendums to the app and what possibilities remain this summer. Still, the app meets a more subtle goal: “That whole area of social marketing and media, we need to be a part of that,” Anderson says, and Wayzata’s Culinary Express program just got one tiny button closer.