Austin continues taking steps toward Smarter Lunchrooms

/ 18 November 2014 / Shawna
Jen Haugen, Austin Daily Herald, November 18, 2014

We loved it, can we have it again? Not the message you might expect to hear from a third-grader after trying the new Turkey and Hummus Wraps last week. But that is the message we heard loud and clear as the Food and Nutrition Services staff at Austin Public Schools made the rounds sampling these new wraps at the elementary schools throughout Austin.

Sampling new menu options is just one idea to encourage students within the district to try something new at lunch. More ideas will be coming soon as nutrition services staff had the opportunity to attend training on the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement, thanks to the Minnesota Department of Education. The Smarter Lunchroom Movement uses simple, low-cost or no-cost strategies in the lunchroom to help kids take and eat more nutrient-dense foods.

Researchers at Cornell University have shown that simple changes like relocating fruit, renaming vegetables and prompting students to enjoy healthy foods can make a big difference. The Smarter Lunchroom Movement is already being used in more than 15,000 other schools nationwide and we are excited to be a part of this movement.

We know that healthier eating can lead to improved health, morale and academics; all things that can make for a better student. In fact, Superintendent Krenz stresses the importance of student wellness, “As we work to educate the whole child, nutrition, thus our school lunchrooms, are critical elements in the process. If our children are not well fed with nutritious healthy food we know this will have a detrimental effect on student learning and development. It is imperative we provide a healthy, nutritious breakfast and lunch to enable our children to grow and learn.”

What types of strategies have been proven effective?

• Moving and highlighting fruit increased sales of fruit by up to 102 percent

• Naming vegetables and displaying the new names with the foods increased selection of vegetables from between 40 and 70 percent

• Placing white milk first in the lunchroom coolers has resulted in an increase of up to 46 percent in white milk sales  (we want kids to drink milk no matter what the flavor — chocolate is a nutritious choice too)

• The first highlighted entrée on the lunch line has an 11 percent advantage over the second option

Our school lunchrooms will soon be assessed using the Smarter Lunchroom Assessment tool to help us evaluate what we are already doing well and identify areas of opportunity. We look forward to sharing our success in the future. And in the meantime, you can read more about the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement at www.smarterlunchrooms.org.