Snack Smarter Schoolwide
Eating smart isn’t only important at meal time. You need to snack smart, too! This Play will teach you how to build a team of “Snack Smart Student Investigators.” Their mission: To identify nutritious snack and “a la carte” foods that should be added to your school’s offerings. This should include all the foods sold in school stores and vending machines, and at school-sponsored events and fundraisers. To make this Play a success, students and adults must work together to make sure the most nutritious offerings possible are available at school. Special thanks to the Kids' Safe & Healthful Foods Project for their input on this Play and the School Snacking Investigation.
Research and school reports, done in low-income middle schools, tell us that when less nutritious snack and a la carte foods and beverages are replaced with foods that are more nutrient-rich, students may select the more nutrient-rich foods.i ii
And, when nutrient-rich choices are better priced and promoted more, students tend to choose them more often — as snacks and in vending machines and the cafeteria.iii
i Alaimo Katherine, Oleksyk Shannon C., Drzal Nick B., Golzynski Diane L., Lucarelli Jennifer F., Wen Yalu, and Velie Ellen M.. Effects of Changes in Lunch-Time Competitive Foods, Nutrition Practices, and Nutrition Policies on Low-Income Middle-School Children's Diets. 2013, 9(6): 509-523. Childhood Obesity.
iii French, SA. Pricing effects on food choices [Abstract]. 2003. Journal of Nutrition.
Huddle up! Meet with your school nutrition professionals (those who lead and do the work in your cafeteria to nourish you), the district nutrition director or dietitian, if possible, as well as the school nurse to help create a plan. Don’t forget to include the whole team: the principal to give your plans a thumbs up and students to run the investigation and bring solutions to life. You will also want to recruit interested teachers, coaches and parents who can volunteer to help.
Students! Here are some things you can do to get things going!
• Get together with your team and look at this handout with different snacks before and after the new standards were introduced. Think about creating a series of flash cards or slide presentation images asking classmates to decide which meet the nutritional standards and which don’t. From the linked page, you can download the infographic in different sizes and put it up in different spots around schools to reinforce with peers that they are getting better nutritional benefit from the new snacks.
• Work with your team to brainstorm items they think do not meet the standards and check them against Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Food Planner. Add nutrient-rich items to you list to discuss with your school’s nutrition professionals to get them into your school.
Create a Snack Smarter Investigative Team at your school and get familiar with the USDA's Smart Snacks in Schools nutrition standards. Work with your team to understand the standards and find the information about your school's snack offerings. Be sure to consider student preferences based on their personal backgrounds and cultures — you want to offer snacks that everyone will enjoy, and this could be a great opportunity to try something new!
Start by using the School Snacking Investigation Checklist (SSI). This will give you a sense of the current options for snacks and a la carte foods and beverages that students can purchase. Next, have the team look for ways to improve the nutritional quality of your school’s snack options. Think about how many students you'll need to gather the information and then recruit them — begin with students who are already on the Fuel Up to Play 60 team!
Survey students to find out which nutritious snack options they would most enjoy at school-sponsored events, and what healthful options might make successful fundraisers — like selling unbuttered popcorn or fruit slices. Use the results to promote more healthful choices to students, parents and teachers, and work with your Program Advisor to make those choices permanently available at school!
You should also speak with your school dietitian and other nutrition professionals to discuss your school’s needs. Find out what is happening in your state with regard to childhood obesity rates and adherence to nutritional guidelines for snacks. Consider making a presentation to the school board to update your school’s cafeteria with the equipment needed to store and prepare healthier options. Invite a pediatrician to speak in support of your efforts.
Organize some healthy snack awareness activities during lunch times. Try some of these resources from MyPlate and Kids.gov videos that teach kids about healthy eating (and exercise):
Use this Alliance for a Healthier Generation step-by-step guide and the School Snacking Investigation to make a plan for improving your school's snack and a la carte offerings. Here are some ideas to tackle:
- Sale! Plan nutritious food promotions like offering reduced prices for more nutritious snack options.
- Work with your Program Advisor and school professionals to meet with snack suppliers to discuss nutrient-rich options that can be offered in vending machines — for example, part-skim string cheese, bagged baby carrots or low-fat yogurt.
- Share! Check out and share this success story about one school district that made tremendous changes to its vending machines and program, including nutritious snacks and nutrient-rich reimbursable meals.
- Propose changes for a la carte food offerings in the cafeteria. Offer nutrient-rich foods that are easy to eat like pre-sliced fruits or small bowls of carrots instead of less nutritious options.
- Consider hosting an event like a Smoothie Day and encourage kids to try smoothies made with low-fat milk or yogurt and fruits and vegetables.
Think long-term and sustainable. Be sure each time you make a change, you document the way you went about it, who the contacts are, and what the short- and long-term costs/benefits are. That way, from year to year teams will be able to continue building on your progress.
Spread the Word
Have students create posters showcasing your program and display them in high traffic areas, such as hallways and classrooms. Get the word out on your school’s website or blog, in your school eNewsletter (or newsletter) and on social media! Share student stories, videos and pics on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram tagging FUTP 60 (FB: @FuelUpToPlay60; IG and TW: @FUTP60) and using #FuelGreatness!
Consider making a presentation to the school board to update your school’s cafeteria with the equipment needed to store and prepare nutritious options.
See how Southside Middle School is spreading the word about their experience with this Play and get some ideas of your own!
Don’t forget after-hours school events and fundraisers. Work with parents and booster clubs to help them serve nutritious snack options, too!
This section has ideas on ways to involve everyone in your school and community. Think about friendly competitions, ideas on how to include students and adults or ways to bring in the family connection.
Set up some friendly competitions between classes by making posters about nutritious snack foods that can be placed all over the school. Be sure to include nutrition information and why that food is a smart snack! Then have a trivia contest to see who learned the most about nutrient-rich eating options!
- Provide input on which snack offerings need to be improved
- Talk with local food suppliers — and farmers — about foods they may be able to provide
- Take turns on the a la carte line promoting nutrient-rich choices
- Volunteer to help rearrange vending machine or cafeteria displays
- Create signs and posters featuring nutritious food choices to display on the cafeteria line or around the school
Homefield Advantage provides useful, practical ways for parents and family members to get involved in making this Play a success — in school and at home! Click here for a printout that is ideal for students to take home and share!
This Play may help you meet the goals of the USDA's HealthierUS School Challenge!
Just getting started? Here is something you can do without jumping right into the full Play. Let this idea get you warmed up so you’re ready to tackle the full Play!
Pick one idea from the Take Action section and use it to show progress or need. For example, start with one vending machine. Work with school adults, including the school nutrition staff, to bring in more nutritious options and make it a nutrient-rich highlight before and after school. Remind students that it is there and track its usage against other vending machines with less nutritious options. Whether it is used more or less than others, use your results to persuade school leaders to make more nutrient-rich changes throughout the school using the full Play!
MEMORIAL MIDDLE SCHOOL
Two Ninja Blenders where purchased with FUTP 60 Funds. The blenders have been used on various occasions to provide students with smoothies.Read More
Peoria High School
Healthy Snack Choices
Students promoted healthy snacks with smoothies. The student population really enjoyed the opportunity.Read More
Riverchase Middle School
Meal Vending Machine
We now offer reimbursable meals through a vending machine in addition to the cafeteria. Meals are accessible all day to students.Read More
Funding and Outfitting Your PlayApply for Funding
What might help?
• Smoothie machine or blender
• Portioners for dividing food portions easily and equally
• Sectioners for slicing and wedging fruits and vegetables
• Refrigerated, glass-front cooler or vending machine for healthy snacks
• Permanent signs or menu sign holders promoting healthy choices
• Permanent Point of Sale equipment/sale systems
• Nutrient-rich foods and supplies for taste tasting to help students select foods to add to the school menu (suggested budget of $0.60 per student)
Funds for Fuel Up to Play 60
Up to $4,000 per year is available to qualified K-12 schools enrolled in Fuel Up to Play 60 to kick-start healthy changes!
Note: It's a great idea to consult with your school's nutrition team when applying for a Healthy Eating grant! Many state and regional dairy councils require it.
- No Kid Hungry: Child Nutrition Program Grant Opportunities
- Fresh and Healthy Vending provides free delivery and upkeep of vending machines that stock fresh, healthful snacks.
- Check your area’s local grocery stores for information about their giving programs. Most large stores have them.