Getting started with a smarter lunchroom

MSU Extension will be helping schools create lunchroom designs that encourage healthy eating choices.

Are you a school food service director, staff member, volunteer or parent that is interested in getting involved in creating a Smarter Lunchroom in your school? The Smarter Lunchrooms movement aims to provide schools with evidence-based tools that improve child eating environments, behaviors and the overall health of children. Here is a quick overview of the simple steps to getting started in your school!

The first step is to complete a free online, on-demand training from Cornell University. The Smarter Lunchroom online training consists of three modules, comprehensive activities, illustrative videos, optional readings, and assessments, and is two hours in length.

The next step is to complete a self-assessment scorecard that will help you evaluate the school cafeteria and identify best practices that can be used in the cafeteria. The scorecard highlights the positive activities already being done and suggests opportunities for improvement.

Developing and executing an action plan for the cafeteria is the main event! The buy-in of your cafeteria staff and volunteers is crucial in executing long lasting Smarter Lunchrooms practices. It is important to hold a meeting and give them the opportunity to provide their input in the process. Examples of quick, easy, and impactful changes are: adding colorful signs to the cafeteria to remind students to pick healthy choices, positioning a bowl of grab and go fruit options next to the cash register, and creatively naming entrees of the day.

During implementation, taking photos of the before and after will be important so you can document the change and impact that is made. The photo checklist will provide specific recommendations for those tracking these changes. An important part of action planning is determining what changes will be made, and who will be responsible for leading each part of the plan. The action plan timeline is helpful to determine what changes can be made quickly, and what changes take an extended period of time.

Interested in participating in Smarter Lunchrooms, but would like some help completing the scorecard and identifying appropriate changes? During the 2015-16 school year, Michigan State University Extension staff will be recruiting and assisting 50 schools that are interested in participating in the Smarter Lunchroom program. Financial incentives are potentially going to be available through grant funding from Michigan Department of Education Team Nutrition. With the help of your Michigan State University Extension coach, you will be asked to identify 10 points in the self-assessment scorecard you wish to change, starting with high-priority areas, and taking notes on areas for future improvement.

To connect with a Michigan State University Extension staff member in your area, visit the expert section on the webpage, or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).

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