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Snack Smarter Schoolwide

Eating smart isn’t only important at meal time. Snacking smart in between meals is important, too! This Play will help you work as a team to identify nutritious snack and “a la carte” options, including dairy foods like milk cheese, and yogurt, to consider adding to your school’s offerings; those additions might also be included in school fund-raising events that are exempt from the USDA Smart Snacks Standards. It is important to consider all the foods sold in school stores and vending machines, at school-sponsored events, and through fundraisers. Help your school build a positive eating and physical activity environment, with a goal of improving even more from year to year. To make this Play a success, students and adults can work together to make sure the most nutritious and delicious offerings possible are available at school in all the various venues. Special thanks to the Kids' Safe & Healthful Foods Project for their input on this Play.

Here’s a checklist to get you started!


Research shows when nutrient-rich options were made more convenient and presented in more visually appealing ways in the cafeteria, estimated consumption increased.i Further, when students are involved in selecting and implementing behavioral economics strategies (strategies to influence behavior by making products more appealing, less expensive, etc.), some high schools have reported decreased food waste.ii

Convenient and appealing cafeterias, kiosks, vending machines and food carts can encourage nutrient-rich eating habits, which can help students get fuel for their school dayiii and support them in developing nutritious eating habits.iv

i Dunn, C., Shelnutt, K., Karavolias, J., House, L., Mathew, A.S. Better Bundled: Combined vegetable side and main dish items increase vegetable consumption among elementary and middle school students. 2016.Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, Abstract P17, 48(7): S15.

ii Bark, K., Byker-Shanks, C., Stenberg, M. et al. Innovative Strategies for Creating Smarter Lunchrooms in Montana High Schools [Abstract]. 2015.Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, Volume 47, Issue 4, S113. Accessed February 16, 2018.

iii Breakfast for Learning. 2016. Food Research and Action Center. Accessed January 20, 2018.

iv Creating Comfortable Cafeterias to Improve Child Nutrition. 2011. USDA Team Nutrition. Accessed January 20, 2018.

Huddle Up

Huddle Up

Huddle up! Meet with your school nutrition professionals (those who lead and do the work in your cafeteria to nourish you), the school nurse, and possibly the district nutrition director or dietitian , 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 to volunteer.

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 USDA Smart Snacks Standards were introduced. Most – if not all – of your school snacks should meet those nutritional standards. Some items, however, may have been exempted. For example, school fundraisers sometimes use snacks that don’t meet the standard. That doesn’t mean you should leave those less healthy options as is. Build an awareness campaign by meeting with sponsors of different school fundraisers and talk about identifying healthier fundraising options. Conduct polling among students to find out which of the existing smart snacks they like.
  • Work with your team to go through the information you’ve gathered—which snacks students would like to see more of, or would buy through a fundraiser and check them against Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Smart Food Planner . Add nutrient-rich items to your list to discuss with your school’s nutrition professionals and club or team sponsors to get them into your school’s fundraising activities. Remember, too, that fundraisers don’t always have to involve food. Consider options like car washes, endurance activities (dance-a-thon, walking challenge, etc.), especially those that can get kids active!
Get Organized

Get Organized

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. By now, your school likely complies with the standards, but that doesn't mean you can't find ways to improve even more! 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 those who are already on the Fuel Up to Play 60 team!


Over time, you may want to do this again and again. Maybe it's once a semester or once a year, but the goal is to continually make improvements over time. Think of it like this: 


Continuous Change Diagram

Build Awareness

Build Awareness

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 can also speak with your school 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 request that the equipment in your school’s cafeteria be upgraded or replace to store and prepare additional nutrient-rich options. Invite a physician to speak in support of your efforts.

Organize some healthy snack-awareness activities during lunch periods. Try some of these resources from MyPlate videos that teach kids about eating nutrient-rich foods as well as physical activity:

As a team, come up with some learning games you can play before or after lunch, or in P.E./Health class. Ask kids to identify which is the more nutritious between two varied snack options. You can do this in teams, or perhaps in a relay race. Look for ways to include all students in these activities, building friendships and friendly competition while helping classmates (and adults!) make better decisions about snacking choices.

Take Action

Take Action

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 — that students may like better than your current offerings - 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 machine offerings, 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 as a fundraiser and encourage kids to try smoothies made with low-fat milk or yogurt and fruits and vegetables. You can find great recipes here and here. Consider a funding application to purchase commercial smoothie machines or blenders so you can offer these nutritious options consistently.

Waring Blender

Think long-term and sustainable. Be sure each time you make a change, you document how you did it and who was involved and record the short- and long-term costs and benefits.This way, from year-to-year teams will be able to continue building on your progress.

Spread the Word

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 newsletter and student newspaper, and on social media! Share student stories, videos and pics on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram tagging FUTP 60 (FB: @FuelUpToPlay60; IG and TW and IG: @FUTP60) and using #FuelGreatness! Keep the whole school informed with updates during morning announcements.

Before or after you work on this Play, contact your local news station and see if a reporter would be interested in coming to your school to do a story on the Play and your team's activities. You can learn about news production and inspire students at other schools at the same time.

See how Southside Middle School is spreading the word about their experience with this Play and get some ideas of your own!


Click to View
Credit: New England Dairy & Food Council

Assuming your school is in compliance with the standards, keep your focus on after-hours school events and fundraisers. Work with parents and booster clubs to help them serve nutritious snack options.



This section featuresideas on ways to involve everyone in your school and community. Think about friendly competitions (fundraising competitions between grade levels offering different nutritious smart snacks, for example!), ideas on how to include students and adults and ways to bring in the family connection.

Scrimmage Time

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!

Everyone Can

  • Provide input on which snack offerings need to be improved
  • Talk with local food suppliers — including farmers — about foods they may be able to provide
  • Take turns staffing 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

Welcome Your Local Community

Consider opening your school's cafeteria and facilities to the community. Parents, local chefs, grocery chain dietitians, and others can come together to brainstorm, share experiences, and provide resources to help make healthy eating a community-wide goal! Learn more here.

Help Build the Whole Fuel Up to Play 60 Community

Encourage students to log on to their Dashboard and report activity to achieve Level Three (30,000 Points) and be named a Fuel Up to Play 60 Student Ambassador! Having ambassadors at your school might help get more students involved!

Homefield Advantage: Check out this resource and share it with parents so they can see what they can do to help at home and at school.


Warm Up!

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!


Click Here to View

Start a grab-and-go breakfast smoothie bar. Work with your school nutrition team to create a morning smoothie bar students can stop by on their way to class. At the beginning, all it will take is a couple of blenders and some fresh dairy, fruits and vegetables. If it catches on, you’ll know it’s time to get started on 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

• Bags/carts 

• 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! 

General Information

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.

Additional Resources

Fuel Up to Play 60 provides this information as a courtesy. It does not imply an endorsement of the websites, organizations, or all information provided thereby. Fuel Up to Play 60 cannot attest to the accuracy of information provided through links. You will be subject to the destination site's privacy policy and terms of use when you leave this website.