School Nutrition


October 8, 2012 by kalnajja

Increasing intake of fruits and vegetables in schools is no simple task.  Children’s eating behaviors while in school are shaped by influences both in and outside of the school walls.  These influences include their family, friends, community structure, and personal preference.  (Considering most kids suffer through food jags, personal preference is not something to be overlooked).

Just like behavior change in adults, behavior change in kids requires a supportive structure that makes the healthy choice the easy choice.  Right now, a promising program aimed at increasing fruits and vegetable intake is the Let’s Move Salad Bar to School program.  This program provides an insulated salad bar equipped with tongs, trays and sneeze guards to any school who applies.  Of course there are some minimum requirements for application, but it is not a competition.  In other words, anyone who qualifies can receive the structure below for their school along with program resources.

ImageWhat this program doesn’t provide is additional behavior change support.  Research has shown that when kids learn about the fruits and vegetables served to them or have the chance to grow them themselves, they are more likely to try the foods and/or continue to select these foods at meal time.

Imagine a more evolved program that provided this concrete supportive structure as well as programming to support behavior change.  Let’s call this evolved program Salad Bar to School II.

  • Component 1: Salad bar Structure with Cafeteria Marketing Resources
  • Component 2:  Horticulture emphasis in classes for all levels
  • Component 3: School Garden for learning and growing, with some veggie use for salad bar

The Eligibility Criteria for this kind of a low cost, comprehensive program might look like….

  1. School has to demonstrate willingness and show letters of support from 20% of school staff willing to take part in at least one aspect of the program.
  2. School has to have a partnership with a cooperative extension group or master gardener who is willing to teach kids and staff various tasks.
  3. School has to support a Horticulture Club and supply a Faculty Club Advisor.
  4. School has to be awarded a bronze level or above in the US Healthier school Challenge.
  5. School has to demonstrate they can support a salad bar every day of the week.
  6. School has to reflect health priorities in school policy.

The Measurable Outcomes might include pounds of fruits and vegetables selected, pounds of fruits and vegetables consumed, total number of hours children spent interacting with fruits and vegetables outside of meal time, total number of hours children spent in fruit and vegetable discussion.

The Budgetary requirements on the school itself would not be too large since the majority of this program would be supported from within the school community and the rest supplied through the original Let’s Move Salad Bar grant.  Partnerships with extension agents or master gardeners would be key and staff support is necessary.  This kind of program would need strong support from the administration and parents as well.  Salad Bar to School II would need to get underway in the spring for there to be any success the following year.  And I would anticipate would continue to increase in impact if continued the following year.

Across the nation there are some real success stories of large and small, rural and urban schools that have done something similar and found success and increased vegetable consumption for their school community.  Here are some of those examples.


Salad Bar to School Program

Smarter Lunch Room Movement

Exposure to Multiple Components of a Garden-Based Intervention for Middle School Students Increases Fruit and Vegetable Consumption


2 thoughts on “School Nutrition

  1. jaherber says:

    Kristina, your “Salad Bar to School II” idea sounds awesome. The only issue that I don’t know how to effectively combat is how to get the kids to want to eat veggies. According to a 2011 Chicago Tribune article entitled, “You can lead kids to broccoli, but you can’t make them eat”, a local high schooler was quoted as saying, “They want us to eat healthy food, but the food has no flavor.” This major obstacle will need to be tackled when promoting healthy eating to the younger generation. Especially when I think about all the sugar and high fructose corn syrup infused items that they eat regularly. My only thought would be to also try and partner with a culinary school or volunteer chef who can develop a kid friendly approach to vegetable flavoring. Sounds like a stretch I know, but kids are so taste driven, that I don’t know if education and exposure would be enough. Kids…what more can I say! “You can lead kids to broccoli, but you can’t make them eat”

  2. arp0118 says:

    I love the emphasis you placed on finding ways to “make the healthy choice the easy choice”. I really do think that is such a key ingredient in health behavior change. It’s just so easy to eat unhealthy. Processed food is everywhere. Not only that, but it’s promoted everywhere as well (e.g., advertisements, optimal placements in lunch lines and in stores). I agree with you that the program needs to incorporate a way to not only have more fruits and vegetables available, but to also promote these items. I am also in your group; before reading your blog, I was thinking F&V could be promoted by making the healthy items look attractive (e.g., decorative fruit bowels), colorful signs promoting healthy items, etc. However, I love your idea of incorporating a school garden program to encourage kids to start thinking about fruits and vegetables through classes with a master gardener and getting involved with a horticulture club. I think your idea would significantly improve the program. It would be interesting to compare results between schools that implement your version of the program and those that implement the original program. I am willing to bet the kids from the schools that implemented your program would eat significantly more fruits and vegetables.

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