A food service director told me that the school meal menus are the most read items on the school district website. He knew this because once he was late in getting the monthly menus posted and the calls started coming in from parents asking, “where is it?”
He decided to use it to post an ad when a food service position opened up. This worked well and he received many applications.
He thought to himself, “Why not use the menu for nutrition messages, as well?” USDA is expecting school food service to do more nutrition education and here is an easy and effective strategy. Templates may be purchased online and are available for an annual fee. Or, a district may create their own templates.
One food service director I spoke with finds the fee-based service well worth the cost. Her menus are colorful, change every month to reflect seasonal themes, and have parts that can be localized for district-specific information. She is able to promote her backpack program for weekends and list pricing for breakfast and lunch.
Another food service director creates her own template. She uses MyPlate logo and messages, highlights menu changes, and promotes healthy choices such as “Breakfast is for First Class Learning” and “Eat Well, Play Hard.” This director finds teachers and school staff using the messages with students to reinforce the healthy menu choices available and to educate on what constitutes a complete meal.
Whatever path you choose to use, incorporate the Choose MyPlate messages:
- Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
- Make at least half your grains whole grains.
- Enjoy fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.
- Vary your protein – beans, nuts and meats can all be healthy choices.
Post menus with nutrition messaging on the school website, email to staff, and make copies for the serving lines. Use the menu to reinforce to students, parents, and staff the good nutrition being provided by school meals.