Everyone should vote, and they should vote often. Stuff the ballot boxes. Go back and say more. Voting is important because it gives voice to your opinion.
We vote for political candidates, talent show contestants, social media posts, and much more. Why not use voting to help create irresistible school meals?
In school cafeteria voting, there are no red states or blue states – it’s a whole rainbow of colors. Our candidates are green leafy vegetables, red bell peppers, purple grapes, and ruby-colored pomegranates – to name a few.
Vote Now (and How).
OHIO Team Nutrition schools used a variety of ways to capture their students’ response to meals and new items. In school nutrition, asking students to voice their opinion creates menus that children will love, allowing schools to offer meals that nourish students for a day of learning.
The easiest way to gather feedback is to ask students what they think. Informal polling can be as simple as walking through the cafeteria and asking students what they liked about an item.
Informal polling can also operate like an exit poll. As students leave the line or the cafeteria, staff ask a sample of students for their responses. Results give school nutrition professionals a quick sense of the response to an item.
Informal polling of customers is very easy to implement and requires no preparation work. It also creates a dialogue with current and potential customers. One downside of this quick-response method of information collection is that it may be difficult to summarize and track responses.
Voting for your favorite candidate does not have to be secretive or require a ballot box. Public “liking” is something that students are quite familiar with.
Summit Academy in Xenia used clothespins and a poster board to collect feedback from their students. After sampling items as part of a fruit and vegetable of the month program, students placed a pin by their response: did they “like all”; “like some; or “like none” of the items sampled.
We “like” this method because it teaches students that there are a variety of responses to trying a new food item. In Xenia, participation in taste tests grew over the course of the year, and all students discovered new items that they “liked”.
There are countless ways to create public voting systems. Try one of these:
- Students place stickers by names of the items they like best.
- Students place their empty tasting cup on a tray or in a basket to indicate the items they prefer.
- Students raise their hands to polling questions.
Public declarations require minimal equipment and create a real-time visual picture of the patterns in student responses. This method also allows us to quantify and compare responses to a variety of food items.
In traditional voting, voters complete a ballot and place it in a ballot box. After all the voting is complete, results are tallied – and a winner is declared. Ballot voting can be fun and suspenseful.
Food Service Director Bonnie Cooper at Black River Education Center created her own ballot boxes to use as part of a family fun night. Students and their parents voted for “Maybe?” items and “Love!” items. The positive-only responses frame the experience for children – and nudges children to look for a maybe or love item!
Printing ballots and counting responses requires a bit of extra work; however, ballots are great tools for quantifying the number of students who like and might purchase an item. Download ballots here.
Unlike upcoming November elections, we want our constituents to vote often. A reoccurring process of asking students to provide feedback creates a shared experience in healthful eating. It also reinforces student, and staff, willingness to try new menu items.
Three Tips to Build High Voter Turnout
Regardless of the voting technique, we want high levels of participation. Maximize participation by following these simple tips:
- Make it convenient. Incorporate the polling station into the flow of regular meal service.
- Reward the act of voting. Stickers are a great way to say thank you. Download “I Voted” stickers here.
- Share the election results. Voting is a process, not a single act. An important part of the process is sharing results with the voters and putting their feedback into action. Knowing that your vote counts increases the likelihood of future voting. To share results with students, try one of these ideas:
- Report the results in the morning announcements – make it fun, like reporting the results of a sporting activity;
- Post a picture of the winning item at the entrance of the school or cafeteria;
- Place a blue ribbon by the item when it appears on the serving line.
Let’s go Ohio! Go to the resource section of the blog to download stickers, ballots, and a taste test getting started guide.
The stakes are high. The outcomes are huge. Please – Vote Now. Vote Often.