Snack Smarter in School
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.
Both research and school case studies have shown that when less healthy snack and a la carte foods and beverages are replaced with foods that are healthier, students may consume more healthful food.i ii
Also, when healthier choices are priced better and promoted more, students choose them more — 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 with your school nutrition professionals (those who direct and work in your cafeteria), 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.
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):
Based on the information your team gathers in the School Snacking Investigation, work with your dietitian and other nutrition professionals, the school nurse and your principal to make a plan for improving your school's snack and a la carte offerings. Here are some ideas to tackle:
- Gather your team to plan healthy food promotions like reducing prices for more nutritious snack options. Studies have shown that discounts encourage students to choose healthier snacks over options that are higher priced.
- 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, low-fat string cheese, bagged baby carrots or low-fat yogurt. Use the support of adults in your school (like the dietitian and other nutrition professionals, the school nurse, teachers and the principal) to help you negotiate. Remember to emphasize that you are trying to bring nutrient-rich options to the students in your school and maintain these changes beyond the current school year. Share this success story about one school district that made tremendous changes to the snacks available in their vending machines. It will show everyone the good that can be done by making healthy changes.
- 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 healthy options like French fries. Consider hosting an event like a Smoothie Day and encourage kids to try smoothies. Be sure all the student leaders on your team talk about the benefits of nutritious eating to get the word out!
- Don’t forget after-hours school events and fundraisers. Work with parents and booster clubs to make sure they serve nutritious snack options, too!
- 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
Create posters and flyers to highlight the new, healthful snack options that are available at school. Announce the changes for upcoming events like after-school activities or school fairs. Don’t forget to use your school's website, social media page, blog or eNewsletter to spread the word.
Involve the community! Schedule a meeting with your school's parent organization and explore what they can do to help. See our Homefield Advantage tips for effective ways to involve parents and caregivers at school and at home.
See how Southside Middle School is spreading the word about their experience with this Play, and get some ideas of your own!
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 healthful 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 healthier 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 to bring in more nutritious options and make it a healthy highlight before and after school. Remind students that it is there and track its usage against other vending machines with less healthy options. Whether it is used more or less than others, use your results to persuade school leaders to make more healthy changes throughout the school using the full Play!
MUNGER PK-8 SCHOOL
Fresh Fruits and VegetablesRead More
MUNISING HIGH SCHOOL
Healthy VendingRead More
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
Open HouseRead More
NORTH SALISBURY ELEMENTARY
Smoothie Don't Ya Want Some?Read More
MADISON MIDDLE SCHOOL
Snack Smarter in School
During our state's Fuel Greatness Campaign, our middle school put on a Snack Smarter in School activity.Read More
ACADEMY OF INTERNATIONAL STDS
We Did ItRead More
Funding and Outfitting Your Play
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!
- 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.