Schools that are learning about Smarter Lunchrooms for the first time often find that they are already implementing many of the recommended techniques in their cafeterias. Formal Smarter Lunchrooms trainings for cafeteria staff, often taught in conjunction with the local Extension office can ultimately benefit youth at schools and serve as a great partnership opportunity with a school district. Trainings provide guidance on how to make school lunchrooms shine even more, by serving appealing, healthy menu items, which lead to a healthier school population.
In Broward County Florida, the University of Florida Extension Family Nutrition Program teamed up with Broward County Public Schools to conduct a three part training series. The first session consisted of a typical Smarter Lunchrooms training held at the Extension office. All participants spent several hours learning about the basic techniques of Smarter Lunchrooms, background information and rationale, and reviewed the scorecard. During the training participants made action plans for the implementation of Smarter Lunchrooms techniques at their school.
At the next session, the school district scheduled a training with a local chef. The chef did some cooking demonstrations and trained the cafeteria managers in healthy food preparation techniques.
The third and final session was held several months after the initial training and this was a discussion oriented meeting where managers talked about which Smarter Lunchrooms techniques they had implemented and what worked well. The training received positive feedback from all managers and there were many success stories shared:
- One cafeteria started putting vegetables as the first option in the lunch line and went from selling 60 to 200 broccoli servings/day.
- A manager received a positive comment from the principal who noticed she was doing a great job advertising what was being served in the cafeteria.
- More students started selecting white milk, rather than flavored milk, at a school where the white milk was relocated to the front of the cooler.
- After the training, one school put a student suggestion box in the cafeteria leading to increased student input on menu items.
- The principal at a school started supporting school lunch by taste testing foods from the cafeteria during the morning announcements, encouraging consumption of a variety of foods.
Extension partnerships lead to improved youth nutritional intake. Use the interactive USDA Land Grant University map to learn more information about Cooperative Extension programs in your state.
Beth Owens, MAg, and Brenda Marty-Jimenez, FCS Agent III/County Extension Director, University of Florida Extension, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences