Potatoes Continue to Raise the Bar

Published online: Jun 28, 2017 Articles Rachael Lynch, Global Marketing Manager, Potatoes USA
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This article appears in the July 2017 issue of Potato Grower. 

It’s lunchtime and students are eating more fruits and vegetables.

Travel back to Jan. 8, 2015, to the Potato Expo in Orlando, Fla. Potatoes USA president and CEO Blair Richardson announced the Salad Bar Challenge—a challenge to the potato industry to install potato-friendly salad bars in school lunch programs across the U.S.

Fast-forward to the present, and the Salad Bar Challenge is still going strong. Thanks to the potato industry’s dedication to child health and well-being, salad bars are being placed across the country. Since the announcement, Potatoes USA and the potato industry have donated 264 salad bars. This makes the potato industry the No. 1 commodity donor to the Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools campaign through the United Fresh Start Foundation.

Salad bars are not only a way to provide nutritious fruits and vegetables to students, but also a means to get a foot in the door for Potatoes USA to better place potatoes on school menus. To help get the most out of the Salad Bar Challenge, additional marketing has been created to specifically target salad bars. These materials are not only delivered to the potato industry’s salad bar recipients, but all schools with salad bars.

This past year, many salad bar-related events occurred at schools that boosted awareness of potatoes on school menus and publicity to the donor. With all the regulations, strict state and federal requirements, and the “not one size fits all” approach for schools, potatoes on the salad bar may not be achievable for all schools. But increased amounts of potatoes on the menu is achievable with the right marketing and the chance for a discussion with the schools themselves. The donations provide that.

In fact, potatoes in schools are more prevalent than ever. According to the FlavorTrak K-12 menu trends report of the top 100 school districts, potatoes make the grade at 97 percent prevalence at lunch. Although the breakfast incidence rate increased from spring 2015 to fall 2016 (from 17 to 24 percent), we see additional opportunities during this meal. For this reason, Potatoes USA sponsored the School Nutrition Association’s National School Breakfast Week. This opportunity allowed the nationwide delivery of Potatoes USA marketing materials. These included a new breakfast brochure, new breakfast recipes and a breakfast recipe contest. On a typical day in the 2015-16 school year, the School Breakfast Program has reported participation by over 14.2 million students, which has increased by nearly half over the past 10 years. Breakfast is an opportunity not to be missed by the potato industry.

With more meal periods now being offered at schools, in addition to more after-school meal programs, potatoes have a greater opportunity of being placed on menus. The FlavorTrak report indicated that category incidence for potatoes is consistently greater at high schools than elementary schools. This creates opportunities for the future. With a majority of the additional meal periods and after-school activities at high schools, we can leverage their already high incidence level of potatoes on their menus as a proven desirable menu item. Potatoes USA also plans on sharing ideas and engaging with schools on a one-on-one level to then share their concepts with the nation.

The school foodservice team at Potatoes USA is working hard to infiltrate school menus and educate school professionals, students and parents on potatoes. Not only are schools wanting more potatoes on the menu; they want to create strategic partnerships that will allow us to further increase awareness of the great taste and nutrition of potatoes with students and their parents.

You can do your part by donating a salad bar today.