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The attention that school lunch food has been getting lately is beginning to change the way parents and school staff look at the food we give our kids. You can get the movement started and keep it going with a little extra attention at the beginning of the year.
You can plant a school vegetable garden to help students understand where food comes from (check out the School Garden project idea). You can work with kids to prepare fresh meals or snacks that they can enjoy on the spot. Food is a great way to connect with a wide audience and talk about sustainability issues spanning topics such as social justice, economics, agriculture, operations, health and more.
Measure your impact
Track increased servings of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains eaten by students or in decreased grams of sugars served or consumed on campus.
- Consider hosting a taste test with samples of local vegetables vs. canned vegetables; tap water vs. bottled water; organic vs. non organic, and take this opportunity to educate your taste testers. Make student opinions visible to the school to start a conversation about healthy food.
- Investigate how food is purchased and brought to your school. Learn what initiatives for healthy food in schools are already in place. Connect with community partners who can bring expertise and resources to help make school lunches healthier and bring fresh food to students.
- Work with the school lunch provider to provide a menu with additional health information for one week at the school, and provide this menu to each student. Survey students and teachers about their perceptions and level of nutrition knowledge to guide future education efforts.
- Connect student learning with sustainability action. Learning Lab offers high-quality classroom content — over 450 lessons — for teachers from kindergarten to high school. The three-lesson module, "I am What I Eat" is ideal for equipping students to choose healthier, more sustainable food options. You can find more modules to educate students about indoor air quality by searching Learning Lab's catalog by theme, primary subject, grade or keyword.
- The Alliance for a Healthier Generation provides detailed guidance and expertise on beverages and snacks, breakfast and lunch, and health education. Specific suggestions for school lunch menus are included on the web site.
- Students can get involved in creating their own healthy, delicious meals and competing nationally for recognition through the Healthy Schools Campaign’s Cooking Up Change program.
- Participate in the USDA’s Healthier US School Challenge for Smarter Lunchrooms to receive recognition for a job well done.
- Use the World Wildlife Fund’s Food Waste Warrior Toolkit to teach students about the impact they can make on the Earth by reducing food waste in their school.