“A little creativity goes a long way.”
While this universal idiom is often referenced as an effective approach to educate children, did you know that it is equally impactful when influencing what children eat in the school lunchroom?
According to Cornell University’s Smarter Lunchrooms Movement research, a handful of easy techniques to increase consumption of produce and healthy food choices include:
- offering vegetables in two separate locations increases consumption up to 40 percent more;
- giving healthy food choices fun, descriptive names increases consumption up to 30 percent more;
- offering sliced fruit instead of whole fruit increases consumption up to 70 percent more;
- moving fruit from stainless steel to a colorful fruit bowl increases consumption up to 100 percent more.
The Smarter Lunchrooms Movement offers 60 simple no-cost or low-cost strategies, which are based on research from the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs and other behavioral science research. The program offers a scorecard that schools can use to assess their food service programs at a Bronze, Silver or Gold level.
“The Smarter Lunchrooms Movement provides a tool to measure how we are meeting the needs and wants of our students and staff here at Dodgeland for any given menu, while giving them a wide variety of fruits and vegetables and controlling waste at the same time,” said Cathy Lamb, food service director at the Dodgeland School District. “I truly believe that when students are given a choice of several cooked and raw vegetables, they are more inclined to try at least one of the vegetables offered rather than not take any at all.”
It is estimated that schools in the United States waste a collective $1.2 billion of food per year. When you also consider that the national childhood obesity rate was measured at 18.5 percent, it becomes clear that driving maximum participation of a school lunchroom program that offers healthy and attractive options is a high priority.
“In Horicon, our motto is ‘Kids don’t run to math; they run to lunch,’ so with this responsibility, we believe we have to offer as much fresh whole nutrition as possible,” said Kim Waech, food service director at Horicon School District. “We have increased participation by 12 percent districtwide by adding an assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables daily.”
The Blue Zones Project Food Environment Committee has tailored a policy that takes Smarter Lunchrooms Movement participation to the next level, encouraging districtwide participation, increasing healthy food education within the internal school community, offering an annual scorecard assessment, and the reporting of these outcomes to the respective school boards and parents in the district.
To date, the Dodgeland and Horicon school districts have adopted the policy, which will be presented to Beaver Dam Unified School District leadership in January.