Poor diet is one of the leading causes of obesity; inadequate physical activity is the other. Obese children are at higher risk for medical conditions such as asthma and diabetes. They tend to have higher rates of depression, low self-esteem and absenteeism. All of these factors make it harder to pay attention in class and succeed in school.
- District-wide, our schools use at least three of the following strategies to promote healthy eating:
- Limit the amount of processed foods offered to students.
- Price nutritious food and beverages at lower costs and increase prices for less nutritious foods and drinks.
- Eliminate unhealthy a la carte food offerings in the school cafeteria.
- Collect and use suggestions from students, families and school staff about nutritious, culturally relevant food preferences and strategies to promote healthy eating.
- Provide information about nutrition and the caloric content of foods available.
- Conduct taste tests to determine food preferences for nutritious items.
- Provide opportunities for students to visit the cafeteria to learn about food safety, food preparation or other nutrition-related topics.
- Provide more fresh fruits and vegetables in the meal program using a school or community garden, initiating a farm to school program and/or offering a daily salad bar with school meals.
- Offer universal breakfast to in all schools.
- Eliminate food or beverages that contain industrially produced trans-fats on school grounds; including vending machines, food brought into the school for classroom celebrations, snacks or rewards, and school stores. Become familiar with SB12-068.
- All schools in our district meet the new USDA Meal Patterns.
- All schools in our district meet the HealthierUS School Challenge criteria for cafeteria meals, food vending machine items, school store snacks and school celebrations.
- Beverages offered at schools in our district meet or exceed Colorado Healthy Beverages Policy standards.
- We offer nutrition education in at least half of the grade levels in every school in our district that meets the new Colorado Comprehensive Health Education and Physical Education standards.
- Our approach to nutrition education is fun, interactive and integrated into the curriculum.
- It encourages children to eat a vareity of foods, including those that are lower in fat and are calcium-rich, as well as more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, all while paying attention to portioning.
- We provide opportunities to share nutrition education with families such as: newsletters, cooking classes, health fairs, etc.
- Only non-food or healthy food rewards are given in the classroom
- Only non-food or healthy food items are used in celebrations, birthday parties, staff meetings, etc.
Nutrition Success Stories
Greeley School District’s Farm to Meal Program
Hot Meals Lead to Healthy Schools in Silverton
- Establish a wellness and nutrition committee of parents, community members, staff and students to assist the district with policies and practices.
- Promote, celebrate and publicize the healthy changes made in your school meal program.
- Ensure classroom rewards, vending machines, a la carte lines, fundraisers and stores in every school only provide healthy options. Jettison sugary snacks and drinks.
- Work with vending contacts to price unhealthy items at a higher rate than healthy items.
- Connect schools to experts and resources for developing tasty, nutritious foods.
- Send nutrition information home to parents who pack their children’s snacks and lunches. Explain the elements of a healthy snack and lunch.
- Engage the community to gain deeper insights into its values about good nutrition and student achievement.
- Develop a board policy that directs the district to provide healthy and nutritious food on school grounds and provides nutrition education for all students.
- Make time in your schedule to sit down and enjoy a school lunch or breakfast with one of the schools in your district.
- Build awareness among constituents about the relevance of nutrition to student achievement.
- Develop collaborative partnerships with community organizations, including the medical community, social services agencies and local nonprofits that are interested in nutrition.
- Create and plan hands-on activities and challenges for the school; e.g., FAQs boxes with nutrition questions, live examples (How Much Sugar in Your Beverage?), promotional posters (e.g. MyPlate).
- Write letters to engage community members to help inform school leaders, board members and parents; including doctors, dieticians, your local health department, etc.
- Help create and enhance a nice ambiance in your cafeteria. Work with food services on food placement, lunchroom set up, lighting, décor, etc.
- Record what you eat for a week (include your family members and teachers too) and see how you compare to the healthy dietary guidelines.
- Research the truth about fast foods and create posters to inform your friends (you can include this in morning announcements to promote your peers to eat at school instead of going off campus).
- Research the ingredients of common foods and educate your peers and teachers (e.g., what is that chemical?).
- Step up as a leader in your school and talk to adults about providing good nutrition and advocating for it.
- Talk to your teachers about incorporating nutrition education and awareness in the classroom and what you think that should look like.
- Create or join the wellness & nutrition committee in your school/district.
- Partner with community organizations that can provide programming which teaches good nutrition and healthy eating — both during school hours and in after-school programs. For example, build school gardens that can be both educational and nutritious.
- Get to know your district’s food service program and make an effort to include healthy snacks and refreshments at district and school meetings, in the classroom, and at events and celebrations.
- Encourage children to participate in free school breakfasts.
- Serve on a wellness and nutrition committee of parents, community members and staff to assist the district with policies and practices.
- Get involved and attend health fairs, after-school cooking classes, etc.
- Become a leader or a supporter of good nutrition and nutrition education in your school district.
- Participate in conversations led by administrators and school board members about how to increase access to well-balanced meals for students, staff and the community. Help identify community issues, priorities and values.
- Partner with districts and schools to provide programming that teaches good nutrition and healthy eating — both during school hours and in after-school programs.
- Serve on a wellness and nutrition committee of parents, community members and staff to assist the district with policies and practices.
It was a challenge with over 7,500 mouths to feed. But the district wasn’t daunted. Before Adams 14 began theUniversal Breakfast in the Classroom program, just 25% of students participated in school breakfast. Now that breakfast is out of the cafeteria, and in the classroom, 88% are choosing breakfast. “Breakfast in the Classroom” has not only been good for the Adams 14 students, it has also added revenue to the school’s coffers and supported a school lunch transformation too. Now, over 85% of school lunches are made from fresh whole ingredients, supported in part, by the success of the breakfast program.
“Breakfast in the Classroom” is a collaborative effort between teachers, custodial staff, administration, parents, and students. Students arrive early before school starts for the day, roll coolers with breakfast items to classrooms, and leave them at the doors. In return for their service, students raise money for their school clubs. This helps out nutrition services and everyone benefits. The school is seeing a “ripple effect” from offering a healthy meal at the start of the day. Before implementing the district-wide breakfast program, many school nurses began their day facing lines of students who had “tummy aches” and were feeling ill. After one week of the breakfast program, lines were virtually gone, and nurses and teachers were able to remove the breakfast products they stored in their desks to feed hungry students.
“Fewer kids are sick, fewer are needing diabetes checks, discipline issues are down, behavior is better; and the kids are quieter and calmer at lunch,” stated one principal. Principal support of the program was critically important to ensure the success of the program. “It was a challenge,” but one that Adams 14 Nutrition Services Director, says, “Was the right thing to do for our kids; we are feeding the next generation.” No matter the free and reduced lunch percentage of a school, Adams 14 Nutrition Services Director shared that any program can be successful, “It is the work that you put into it.” Students and staff are “customers,” and like any business, there is a need to market, advertise and recognize supply and demand.
The district was also able to start a catering program for healthy snacks, classroom birthday parties and celebrations and staff meetings. Adams 14 has a catering menu that includes healthy and low cost options, such as a fruit tray for $7, which is available to any parent or staff member, and they are taking advantage of it. From the revenue of the catering program, the food services department has been able to hire a district wellness coordinator and has revamped their high school cafeteria so that it is a hip and welcoming school spot.
The school kept the momentum going; they were awarded a $20,000 grant from The Colorado Education Initiative and through observations of other local school districts and aid from the town’s policy writer and the Colorado Department of Education’s Office of Nutrition, Silverton developed menus, policies and procedures that meet the new USDA Meal Patterns to offer hot lunches to all students, Pre-K-12, and staff. Silverton leaders hired one of their school board members as the chef and started serving meals a few months later. Partnering with a local grocery store, they make 100% of their meals from scratch, a salad bar is offered daily, all meals meet the standards for healthy lunches, and all meals are served for free to students.
So far, participation is high. The school serves approximately 25 breakfasts and 50 lunches each day, which reaches a little over 75% of the student population in the first few months. Students created norms for behavior in the cafeteria, and they provide input into the meal selections. The school also serves healthy snacks to the students who attend homework club after school, and teachers no longer have to store food in their classrooms for hungry students. The overall district schedule was also changed to allow a full 30 minutes for each lunch period and the school partnered with the county to offer a special lunch period, where it opens its doors, in a true community model, for seniors from the community to eat school lunch, many for the first time.
There were many bumps in the road, but Silverton knew that although this was hard work, it was the right work. Teachers report fewer tardies and absences, and because students are fed nutritious food, they are engaged and focused in class.Furthermore, the Silverton Board of Education approved a portion of general funds to sustain the meal program, making this a real success story.
There’s a wealth of resources available to get you started. Among the most relevant to nutrition:
Find resources to engage parents and community members, including tip sheets on How to Create a Healthier School Food Culture.
Discover healthy alternatives to food rewards in the K-12 classroom.
Discover a wealth of resources for district administrators focused on childhood obesity and healthy school environments, including a checklist for wellness and informative newsletters featuring school districts that are making positive program and policy changes in healthy eating and active living.
CDC synthesized research and best practices related to promoting healthy eating and physical activity in schools, culminating in nine guidelines; the School Health Guidelines to Promote Healthy Eating and Physical Activity.
Find out about effective practices and policies to improve school foods and beverages.
Learn how five Colorado middle schools removed unhealthy a la carte options for more healthy options and the impact of this decision on their school budgets.
Find information on the new USDA Meal Patterns and what changes this constitutes. Find brochures to promote healthy food to parents (English and Spanish), administrators and teachers.
Access news, tip sheets and background information on the most talked about issues affecting students, including healthy schools.
Find tons of resources and tools for nutrition education and integrating nutrition into the school environment.
Learn how District 6 was able to hire a full-time wellness coordinator with the additional revenue earned from their scratch-cooking meal program. This case study outlines three easy steps to replicate Greeley’s sustainable nutrition program.
Use the strategies in this comprehensive tool kit to develop policies for high-quality nutrition in schools.
Visit the virtual lunch box online for strategies school and district leaders can use to create healthier meals for students and staff that are grown locally and prepared from scratch.
“Previously, our food service employees’ tools of the trade were a box cutter and a can opener. We weren’t cutting up fresh food and cooking it. Now it’s fresh food cooked from scratch. When you eat well, your brain and body perform better.”