Programs give students a voice of change for healthy school environments

Michigan State University Extension staff are working with students throughout the state that are interested in healthier cafeterias and school environments.

Michigan State University Extension Health and Nutrition staff are engaging youth in leadership opportunities that promote healthy food choices and more physical activity. Through partnerships with the Michigan Department of Education Team Nutrition and the United Dairy Industry of Michigan, MSU Extension staff are bringing the Smarter Lunchroom movement and the Fuel Up to Play 60 program to schools throughout the state. These opportunities help students develop important life skills like leadership, self-confidence, self-efficacy, and problem solving. With the help of MSU Extension staff, students will be empowered to affect change around their school’s environment. 

With Smarter Lunchrooms, students work alongside the food service team and form a SNAC (Student Nutrition Advisory Council) team. The SNAC team assesses the school lunchroom environment, promotes healthy eating, develops ideas for taste testing, and has input on the school menu. SNAC teams help the food service team stay in touch with students. Using the Smarter Lunchrooms approach with students has the potential to increase sales of reimbursable meals, while nudging participants to healthy choices in the cafeteria. 

Fuel Up to Play 60 also involves assembling a team of student ambassadors at each school. Similar to the Smarter Lunchrooms initiative and with the assistance of an MSU Extension staff person, the student team completes an assessment and assists with the decision making of what “plays” or actions will be implemented at their school. Schools are encouraged to choose at least one healthy eating play, and one physical activity play. For example, students may choose to start school-wide, in classroom physical activity breaks because they notice themselves losing focus in their afternoon classes. They can take it one step further by speaking at a school board meeting about the need for breakfast in the classroom. 

Students’ voices are sometimes overlooked, and these programs offer a new and exciting way to approach healthy changes in schools by including the student’s voice. What better way to affect change than to empower students to speak up and take action! 

To bring the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement and Fuel Up to Play 60 to your school, contact Becky Henne,, or Liz Dorman, To connect with a Michigan State University Extension staff member in your area, visit the expert webpage, or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).

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