Tips to Help Your School Nutrition Program Thrive [ Part 1]By Federal Industries May 11, 2022
Food insecurity is a big issue in this country. As we saw during the Covid pandemic when so many of our amazing school nutrition programs continued service to children and families in need, school meals are often the most important meal of the day for so many of our students. Many of those children actually receive their healthiest daily meals through school lunch programs.
According to Feeding America, more than 12 million children suffer from food insecurity. This is in large part why dependable school lunch programs are so vital. In addition to being the most reliably healthy meal that a child may get five days a week, children also have improvements in learning environments and physical health, according to the Food and Research Action Center (FRAC).
Improving existing lunch programs, or implementing better models, is a proven way to boost emotional and physical outcomes for children. Here are a few tips for maximizing the potential of any school nutrition program.
Bridge the Two-Day Gap
For most regular school weeks, children have the opportunity to have healthy meals five days a week. During the weekend, breaks, holidays, and summer vacation, children may lack nutritional advantages. Two methods for bridging the time gap are providing afterschool snacks and providing meals that are grab n go in schools.
In 2019, grab n go lunches helped increase the number of students receiving healthy meals. In 2020, many school districts utilized a national program to extend foodservice to all students, regardless of income status. As many children were learning virtually, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) eased and expanded eligibility requirements, including meal service accessibility, to ensure a greater number of children were still receiving healthy meals.
Create nutritional food appeal
Marketing is another effective method for improving school nutrition programs. One way to encourage students to partake in healthier meals is to show them what they can have.
School foodservice displays are great for providing visual showcases of healthy meal options. Visual design goes a long way in the advertising and marketing worlds. If people see something appealing, it becomes easier to want to engage or obtain it. That same principle applies to children and food. The Vision Series merchandisers have a large, inviting front opening that easily allows kids to see appealing options and grab it.
Back in 2010, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act mandated healthier nutritional standards for school lunches. This created a new opportunity for schools, foodservice suppliers, and vendors to find creative ways to encourage children to eat food that is good for them.
Other types of marketing methods that optimize school lunch programs can include implementing community garden programs within schools, “fun” menus that use playful words for healthy foods, and starting incentive programs that reward students for making good food choices.
Many schools have made wonderful strides toward improving school nutrition programs that create better learning environments and help keep students healthier. However, there is always room for improvement. Utilizing some of these ideas can be a fantastic way to take more steps toward creating better programs.