Santa DiSclafani knows what it's like to operate in the trenches of the City's foodservices. Armed with an undergraduate degree in nutrition six years ago, she started with SchoolFood as a foodservice manager in District 6, at the top end of Manhattan.
After later stints as a recruitment manager and a supervisor of management evaluation teams, DiSclafani sold the administration on hiring her to become the district's marketing director two years ago. Since then, she's worked to build structure, pizzazz and consistency into its marketing programs, line decor and overall brand.
"Our top goals have been to increase breakfast and lunch participation," she says." Marketing strategy helps us attract new customers and better merchandising enhances the customer experience so they'll return."
In those efforts, she collaborates closely with Chef Collazo and his regional chefs. "We struggle with the perception of students that school food and nutrition just aren't 'cool,"' she says."To counter that, we've tried to create a bright, fun, professional environment that complements what we're doing on the nutrition and culinary sides."
DiSclafani used the district's "Feed Your Mind" SchoolFood logo as a platform from which to build standardized color schemes for city wide line decor and station signage. Supervisors-employ custom-designed toolkits and training guides that specify how these are installed, and are trained to ensure that staff consistently displays everything from fresh fruit in wrought-iron baskets to sporks, condiment holders and grab-and-go items like cereal packs.
Decor initiatives this year go beyond the basic station concepts and promote broader wellness themes that support healthful meal and exercise choices. Bold, simple messages (e.g. Brain Food ... Exercise Makes You Strong ... Stay Healthy Eat Fruit) are promoted via colorful posters displayed throughout the district.
DiSclafani notes that the same basic message is presented in different ways to younger and older customers. "The art for K-8 students is simpler and incorporates positive imagery of students themselves; the posters for junior and high school students are more abstract."
Coordinating and tracking the results of monthly rollouts of district-wide food promotions (including an extensive effort to promote SchoolFood's summer feeding program) consumes a large part of DiSclafani's time. In 2005, many of these were based on classic themes, like the "School lunch—It's Instrumental" promotion that tied in school band and music programs to good nutrition.
The 2006-07 promotional calendar features a year-long, international food festival highlighting both traditional and non-traditional ethnicities of the students. In some cases, these have achieved one-day participation increases of 25-30 percent,"with a halo effect that continues after that," she says. Another popular promotion: the 100th Day of School."It's a milestone the students love to celebrate," she laughs.