Promoting Healthful Choices
Work with school nutrition professionals, teachers, administration, school nurse and students — and be a role model yourself — to promote healthy food choices and nutrition awareness.
How Does It Work?
This Play was developed in collaboration with the Cornell University B.E.N. Center and the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement, and these are ideas that have been shown to work! If someone asks you to try a healthy option, you're more likely to try it than if they didn't ask. And when students choose healthy options for themselves, they're more likely to actually eat those foods instead of leaving them on the tray.
- Better school meals on a budget: Using behavioral economics and food psychology to improve meal selection. Cornell Food and Brand Lab.
- Marketing nutrition. Cornell University Food and Brand Lab.
- Smarter lunchrooms: Using behavioral economics to improve meal selection. Choices: The Magazine of Food, Farm, and Resource Issues.
Huddle up with your school nutrition professionals (those who work in your cafeteria) to help with food promotions and nutrition information; the school nurse, who can help with your plan; the principal to give your plan a thumbs up; students to help with awareness building and promotions. Team up by grade or class to work on a variety of promotions.
Meet with your team(s) to brainstorm the various ways you can promote healthy choices. Use the Tools and Resources below to identify ways to help students make healthier choices. Make a list of promotional ideas/strategies that might encourage long-term, positive changes in students' habits. Evidence-based strategies that work include some of these simple actions — many of which come from Cornell University's B.E.N. Center and Smarter Lunchrooms Ideas:
- Create verbal prompts (simply ask someone if they want a serving of fruit or milk) or visual prompts (like posters, flyers or permanent signs) in the cafeteria line.
- Make access to healthier choices easier and access to less healthy options slightly more inconvenient. This can be as simple and cost-free as moving existing coolers and other food service equipment around or, with funding, adding more appealing cooler displays (like glass-front milk storage units), new kiosks or other food service equipment.
- Create displays of foods that are visually appealing.
- Invite adults (local celebrities, parents, teachers) to sit with students during breakfast and model healthy food selections.
- Hold specific promotions of nutrient-rich foods — give out fun prizes for the healthiest plate; put prize stickers on the bottom of milk containers; hold a contest for the most innovative "renaming" of different healthy foods.
- Have students host "Brunch and Learn" sessions with school adults and other students; let them talk about what they make and why the ingredients are good choices.
Spread the Word
Create promotional materials like posters and flyers to highlight the healthy options on your breakfast (and lunch) menus. Get the word out on your school's website, blog or in your school's eNewsletter, or during the morning announcements. Make your promotions fun — offer prizes for healthy plates or reward programs for students who consistently make healthy choices.
Get Others Involved
Everyone can help:
- Provide input on various food promotions
- Create posters and flyers highlighting the importance of a healthy breakfast
- Take turns on the breakfast or lunch line promoting healthy choices
- Join in "Brunch and Learn" sessions
- Create healthy food displays to feature on the cafeteria line or in posters
Involve the community. Schedule a meeting with your school's parent organization and let them know what they can do to help. See our Homefield Advantage tips to help involve parents at school and at home.
Did You Know?
According to a study at the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab, students at schools with debit-only payment options are more likely to choose less healthy food options than students at schools with other payment options. Consider implementing a "cash for cookies" rule in your cafeteria!
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