Over the years, food service personnel in Lyons Central School District (LCSD), located in Wayne County, NY, have worked very hard to make sure the cafeterias are places where children have access to healthy food. New USDA meal regulations coupled with Smart Lunchroom strategies accelerated this effort in the last year.
With the new USDA regulations, a serving of fruit must be on every tray – a challenge and an opportunity. In LCSD, children have several options. Fresh and canned fruits are provided every day and are also served on attractive platters. If a child arrives at the register without a fruit, a clear bowl filled with fresh fruit located next to the register provides tasty options for the child. Better yet, the food service worker prompts the child to make a selection.
Recent research shows that sliced fruit leads to increased consumption and less waste. In a new collaboration, the regional food bank, Foodlink, has agreed to provide sliced apples which are sourced from local, Wayne County farms. In the high school lunchroom, students can use a fruit slicer and cut their own fruit.
Not only is fruit offered daily, but the cafeteria staff also prepares hot and cold vegetable choices every day. These choices are promoted on the “My Great Tray” dry erase board which is prominently located and on menus posted on the school district website. Additionally, vegetable and fruit choices are part of the salad and sandwiches that are made to order, and that are offered daily.
Cafeterias in LCSD also offer special choices by stocking taco and potato bars with various toppings. For younger students, a smaller, shorter salad bar is on order to given them easier access.
With a participation rate of over 80% in the National School Lunch Program, prices are set to maximize the number of reimbursable meals sold. Specifically, a la carte items are the same price as a full meal and less healthy options, such as ice cream and snacks. These items are placed behind the registers, requiring students to ask for these foods. While 58% of the students in the district receive free or reduce price lunches, this pricing strategy strongly encourages participation among the other 42% paying full price.
In LCSD, food service staff focuses on offering students healthy foods to promote healthy behaviors, facilitate classroom learning and assist in helping children develop beneficial, lifelong habits. They work closely amongst themselves and continually incorporate different strategies to achieve this goal.
In Lyons, the focus is on offering students healthy foods that support health and learning in the classroom and beyond. Food service staff work together and continually try different strategies to achieve this goal.
Vince Beltrone, Food Service Director at Lyons Central School District
 Wansink, Brian, David R. Just, Andrew S. Hanks, and Laura E. Smith (2013):Pre Sliced Fruit in School Cafeterias: Children’s Selection and Intake” Forthcoming in American Journal of Preventive Medicine