This week we joined K-12 schools and districts in celebrating National School Lunch week. The initiative, as sponsored by the School Nutrition Association and the Milk Processors Education Program, was created to increase awareness of and garner support for healthy, nutritious lunches in schools across the country.  As National School Lunch week comes to an end, schools and districts can dramatically improve their school lunch programs throughout the year with better food options, while also instituting a system for efficient management.

School lunch programs feed 31 million children nationwide with 95 percent of schools participating. With so many children to feed, schools and districts benefit from having a system to effectively communicate about school lunch balances, menu updates or options and other program reminders. In the past year, schools and districts using Blackboard mass notification services have sent out more than one million messages concerning school lunches.

In Beaufort County Schools, parents have been receiving school lunch notifications via the AlertNow platform since September 2009. As a mid-sized, rural district in the eastern coastal region of North Carolina, Beaufort County School District is comprised of 14 K-12 schools with more than 7000 students – that’s a lot of mouths to feed! With so many students and busy working parents, administrators were challenged to regularly and efficiently send out lunch balance alerts across the district.

“Many of our parents have hectic schedules so they really appreciate the discreet reminders AlertNow allows when their child’s school lunch balance is running low,” said Sarah Hodges, Public Information Officer for Beaufort County Schools.

For many schools and districts, low or negative balances for student lunch accounts can significantly affect budgets. What would otherwise be a seemingly daunting task, AlertNow, a service of Blackboard,  allows administrators or educators to quickly and easily send out multiple notifications to certain parents in minutes.

“On Friday, the principal of one of our K-8 schools sent out 13 notifications about school lunches. Five notices had been settled by breakfast on Monday,” said Hodges. “It takes our principals or cafeteria managers five to six minutes to send out a message — from running a report, to building a group then launching a call.”

As National School Lunch Week demonstrates, schools lunches play a vital role in children’s lives. With the use of Blackboard mass notification services, schools and districts can efficiently manage individual student information, such as school lunch balances, and communicate effectively with parents through simple, timely updates.

For more information about school lunch, check out some additional resources from Edutopia.

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