Social Media Trends Influencing School Dinners
Sodexo’s education catering brand Alliance in Partnership (AiP) is drawing inspiration for its latest school menu offerings in the UK from TikTok and Instagram.
The food services brand which was acquired in 2018 serves more than 75,000 freshly cooked, nutritious and locally sourced meals a day at over 400 primary, middle and secondary schools as well as colleges throughout the UK, has been inspired by social media trends such as the rise of ‘fakeaways” (making healthier versions of takeaway-style food at home) and incorporated these into its food menu strategy.
As a consequence, school children can now expect to see healthy dupes of dishes such as chicken katsu curry and cauliflower korma, which don’t compromise on flavour, showing up in the school dining hall.
While other social media-inspired dishes such as Mediterranean nachos – complete with feta, olives, crudites and sweet potato hummus – are already on offer to schoolchildren, the Sodexo team is exploring current trending foodie items such as Baked Feta, Mochi and Foldable TikTok Tortilla Wraps to integrate them into future menus.
James Mundy, Food & Retail Transformation Director for Schools & Universities at Sodexo, comments: “TikTok is currently shaping comedy, fashion and popular culture, so why not school meals? The food served in UK schools has come a long way in recent years. Health, convenience, and social media have all played a significant role in influencing the types of foods young people want to try and their relationship with food. Our catering teams work in partnership with schools and pupils on an ongoing basis to understand what they want and to collaboratively develop menus that spark a genuine foodie interest in young minds.”
In addition to TikTok trends and Instagram foodie influencers, the Sodexo schools catering team also regularly looks to the high street to help shape, not just the meals it prepares, but the manner in which they are provided. The widespread shift towards digital menu screens in ‘grab and go’ restaurants and the rise of online food delivery apps demonstrates the importance of convenience and speed of service. As such, Sodexo has taken on board the fact that pupils want healthy food that can be consumed quickly, on the go, to maximise their free time.
Mundy says: “This is the first generation to have been raised to fully understand the impact of climate change through education and social media. As such, we have seen a marked increase in pupils being more conscious about their food choices and wanting to be ethical and sustainable, resulting in more pupils embracing our plant-based options. Young people are fundamental for the transformation towards healthy and sustainable food systems, so this is fantastic to see.”
Tom Laskey, Marketing Director for Schools & Universities at Sodexo, adds: “Our objective when incorporating these trends into our menus is to increase take-up of school meals, especially for those on free school meals. We know when pupils find the food served inspiring, they are more likely to choose a hot, nutritious school meal. If we can get more pupils eating school food, we should see improved health and learning outcomes that help each child to achieve their potential, supporting the closing of the inequalities gap and a more sustainable food system.”