Kindergarten children eating lunch

The only way to find out what kids think about school meal needs is to ask them! Whether you develop input through student-led “Nutrition Advisory Councils (NACs)” or with a series of activities, developing interaction can be highly successful.

Kids can help lead healthy change through peer nutrition education, promoting the school meal program and helping to create a healthier environment. The following activities help promote input:

  • Taste test new menu items. With a classroom teacher, arrange to give small samples and initiate a brief “Taste and Learn” discussion about how the item fits into school meal requirements.
  • Have kids brainstorm or respond to marketing ideas. For example, what do they think about promoting the cafeteria with a contest to give it a school name?
  • Ask about their ideas for healthy fundraising and how they can encourage school organizations to sponsor healthy fundraising options.
  • Ask students to develop a monthly bulletin board. Use it as an opportunity to have a health professional (registered dietitian) talk and provide resources about reliable vs. unreliable nutrition information. MyPlate.gov is a good “go to” for reliable information.
  • Conduct a “behind the scenes” school kitchen tour. Provide a demonstration on a topic of interest. For example, talk about why portion sizes matter in nutrition standards. Show the tools used to ensure that portion sizes are appropriate.

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Schools participating in the HealthierUS School Challenge: Smarter Lunchrooms Initiative are working towards helping kids make healthy eating choices a habit. A smarter lunchroom is one that nudges kids towards nutritious foods.

Solutions for creating Smarter Lunchrooms are low cost/no-cost and easily implemented, such as:

  • Creating an appealing lunchroom environment
  • Promoting healthful eating behaviors
  • Sustaining the positive changes made

Best practices and lunchroom solutions that the Smarter Lunchrooms Initiative endorses have been studied and proven effective in a wide variety of schools across the nation. Examples include:

Studies have also shown that:

Over 30 million children are fed by the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). Smarter Lunchrooms are making a healthy difference!

Nursery School Children Having Lunch

Across the country, getting parents on board with healthy changes at school is a frequent question at our workshops. Here a few examples:

  • Invite parents to have school breakfast or lunch with their child.
  • Find “health champions” who have an interest in learning about healthy school environments and will be advocates.
  • Spread the word about the connection between healthy eating & physical activity and academics. In print and in discussions, enhance awareness of studies that show kids who make healthy eating and activity choices perform better in school than those who do not.
  • Make school wellness happenings Talk with parents during parent-teacher conferences and at school events. Create signs, door banners, bulletin boards and classroom artwork to spread healthy messaging.
  • Provide healthy tips in newsletters and on websites for parents to use at home.
  • Invite parents to attend school wellness council meetings and let them know their thoughts do matter.
  • Provide health topics homework that supports parent-child discussion.

Young boy and girl enjoying their breakfast before school

Is there a better time for a breakfast campaign than the start of the new school year? Kick off the year for academic success! From studies, we know that kids who eat breakfast have better concentration and more energy. In fact, eating breakfast can help improve math, reading, and standardized test scores!

If you are an educator or youth leader:

  • Help kids hear the message that breakfast is a daily habit that gives GO Power for more energy and better concentration, making school easier!
  • Choose interactive lessons that let kids see that breakfast foods can be fun and tasty!
  • Plan activities that let them do, such as Healthy Kids Challenge Taste and Learn Lessons that give the option of preparing and tasting a breakfast recipe.

If you are a parent:

  • Learn more about actions in your school district to support the connection between breakfast and increased potential for academic success.
  • For home, take time with your children to make a list of healthy breakfast ideas. If breakfast is frequently skipped, talk about why. Discuss how to make breakfast a daily habit.

pear for you

There are many people volunteering much of their time to help make a healthy difference for kids. I know of teachers who give their own time to organize kids’ after school walking and running groups or spend extra minutes a week working a healthy eating lesson into the time that is available or finding ways to integrate it into their curriculum. Too often these great efforts go unrecognized. Giving recognition motivates these well doers and others to take similar actions.

Seek opportunities such as staff meetings to recognize wellness related actions! It will help build the “culture of wellness” that makes schools a healthy place. A place that helps kids reach their best well-being and academic potential.

Make it Personal

August 22, 2016

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Commitment is an ingredient in the recipe for success. When school wellness team members have a personal interest in wellness, they are much more likely to promote healthy behaviors and participate in creating healthier environments.

School wellness team members have the power to change misconceptions about what a healthy eating means. For too long, many have viewed good nutrition as a “diet” when in fact all foods can fit with balance. Team members become role models and ambassadors for healthy change. MyPlate, Let’s Move, USDA Team Nutrition and Healthy Kids Challenge Balance My Day Curriculum are resources that demonstrate how “all foods can fit” with moderation, variety and healthy balance.

Inspire AWE-some CHANGE

August 16, 2016

Girl Eating Watermelon

AWE-some CHANGE is a measure which you can use to determine the potential success of your actions. HKC coined these acronyms that refer to actions that are…

(For intended audiences)

Appealing and fun

Welcoming and inviting

(and for those implementing actions)

Easy and simple

Repetition of memorable healthy messages helps to further the effectiveness of actions. For example, Healthy Kids Challenge uses catchy names for healthy habits. One of the Healthy6 Habit is Active Play Every Day. Using the name as part of a fun activity helps make physical activity even more appealing. Active Play Every Day, Makes Me Want to Dance is an example of a Healthy Kids Challenge AWE-some activity idea. Kids practice dance steps in PE and are encouraged to teach them to family members. At different times, such as at field days, as a reward, or at a dance party, kids are encouraged to perform the steps.

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