FARGO, N.D. — Some simple changes in school lunchrooms can encourage students to make nutritious food and beverage choices, increase school lunch program participation and decrease food waste.
“The changes are effective and sustainable, as well as low- to no-cost,” says Jan Stankiewicz, the North Dakota State University Extension Service’s western area community health and nutrition specialist.
NDSU Extension has certified technical assistance providers who can help school administrators, food service directors and staff, wellness committees, teachers and students make those changes, whether they are small and incremental or a major transformation in the lunchroom.
The Smarter Lunchrooms Movement (SLM) was developed at Cornell University in 2009. It identifies key strategies that nudge students to take an apple instead of a cookie and ultimately eat more healthful foods. Schools look carefully at how students make food choices, then arrange the lunchroom in a way that makes the most healthful options so appealing, attractive and convenient that students can’t resist them.
“This results in well-fueled students who are ready to grow, play and learn,” Stankiewicz says.
More than 30,000 U.S. schools are participating in the SLM.
Here are a few ways the SLM suggests school lunchrooms can help students eat more healthfully:
- Place fruit in at least two spots in the lunch line and in a colorful bowl by the cash register.
- Give fruits and veggies creative names, such as “X-ray vision carrots” or “protein-packed chickpeas” to enhance students’ taste expectations.
- Place white milk in every drink cooler and in front of flavored milk.
- Place the most healthful snacks at eye level.
Stankiewicz says schools implementing the SLM strategies have seen impressive results. For example:
- Moving and highlighting fruit has increased sales by up to 102 percent.
- Displaying vegetables with new names has increased students’ selection of vegetables by 40 to 70 percent.
- Placing white milk in front of chocolate milk in the cooler has increased sales of white milk by 46 percent.
Contact Stankiewicz at 701-328-9719 or email@example.com for more information, or the South East Educational Cooperative (http://www.ndseec.com) for a list of technical assistance providers in your area.
— NDSU Agriculture Communication
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