New Meal Pattern Requirements Prompt Schools to Think Outside the Box

Now that the 2012-2013 school year is in full-swing, school food service staff across the country are seeing first-hand how the new meal pattern requirements are playing out with their students. Because children are now required to have more fruits, vegetables, dark greens and legumes during the week, child nutrition directors are concerned with the students actually consuming their food rather than creating “healthy trash cans”. A recent article from the Associated Press highlighted the efforts being made to encourage consumption.

A district in Hopkins, Minnesota is recruiting “food coaches” to travel to elementary schools and give out free samples of fruits and vegetables. For older-age students, “food coaches” take the form of other students such as upperclassmen or student athletes. A Colorado State University study showed students ate more of the healthier items when they ate after recess rather than before. Packaging and labeling also has an effect, as students are more apt to choose the healthier options in colorful containers and original names. For instance, corn consumption went up in a Colorado school when it was colorfully labeled “mellow yellow corn” rather than simply “corn”.

Impulse buys are not just effective for a grocery store checkout lines – “grab and go” foods by cash registers increased fruit and vegetable consumption. Schools have even been creative with contest and challenges that promote healthy eating and generate buzz for the students.

How have you increased healthy food consumption in your school? Tell us about it and you could be featured in our next blog post!