We’ve learned very quickly that you can’t tell young people what to do. You need to engage them and empower them to make a difference for themselves. So our Canteen Rescue campaign was an initiative aimed at 11-15 year old pupils encouraging them to take control of their canteen environment.
Our research found that one of the most important factors in young people choosing to eat school meals was the quality of the canteen itself. So we created a promotion in which pupils could win a canteen makeover for their school, and by doing so deliver increased interest in and uptake of school meals in participating schools.
Rather than the campaign feeling like something that was teacher-driven and ‘preachy’, we spoke directly to the pupils and inspired them to take action on their own terms. This also meant creating a campaign in their environment – so the promotion centred around a dedicated microsite which sat on the existing Get Real portal and which was extended through Facebook, Twitter and online PR, as well as through our celebrity judges’ Twitter feeds. This microsite was packed with inspiration – including hints and tips for how to create a better lunch environment – and pupils were also asked to submit design proposals for their ideal canteen.
Our celebrity judging panel including Scott Mills, Dick & Dom and Craig Phillips, selected finalists based upon creativity and level of school participation – with all entries having to demonstrate that they had the support of the school behind them. 10 finalists were shortlisted and put to the public vote – with 5 ultimate winners being selected.
Furthermore, to maintain interest beyond the winners being announced (and to encourage participation whilst canteen makeovers were underway) we extended the promotion to award grants of up to £10,000 each month. To qualify for a grant pupils must engage the whole school to identify the biggest issue with their canteen, then propose their ideas on how to fix the issue and how much they would need to do so.
With over 1,100 schools participating and over 30,000 votes cast, figures indicate a substantial increase in school meal uptake as a direct result of the campaign. The grant scheme is still underway, but so far thousands of pounds have been awarded to schools to help them improve their canteen environments.
The programme was also nominated for a Digital Impact Award – as one of the best ‘not for profit’ engagement programmes.