The Top 5 Nutrition Education Strategies of 2016

With 2017 only weeks away – it is time to celebrate the best of school nutrition.

In Ohio, 92 schools joined the Smarter Lunchroom Movement during the past school year. School nutrition staff implemented simple strategies that increased the availability of healthful items, encouraged trial of unfamiliar foods, and reinforced healthy student eating.

Taste tests, nutrition education, salad bar enhancements, cooking events, and plate waste studies were the most frequent types of activities.

Here are the highlights from this year’s most creative nutrition strategies – we hope they inspire your own success story in the coming year. Specific school stories will be posted on this blog over the upcoming months.

Taste Tests

Taste events are a fun, pressure-free way to introduce bite-sized samples of new food items. They also provide a quick, casual way to teach students about local food items, food properties, and healthful food choices. Curious students sampled over 38,732 items!

  • 65 schools held a taste test event;
  • 24 types of fruit were sampled;
  • 47 types of vegetables were sampled;
  • 25 schools added new items to the menu.


Nutrition Education

Nutrition education provides information about food properties and activities that help students develop skills for making nutritious food choices. The best nutrition education provides hands-on experiences that allow learners to engage with food, expand food preferences, and creates a willingness to try new foods and preparations.

The Smarter Lunchroom grant schools used menu boards and social media, and held events to engage students, teachers, parents, and community members in healthful eating.

  • 18 schools held nutrition education events;
  • 5 newspaper articles featured school nutrition events;
  • 28 blogs were posted on OHIO Smarter Lunchrooms;
  • 793 resources were downloaded from OHIO Smarter Lunchrooms.

Salad Bar Enhancements

Salad bars are an efficient way to offer a variety of fresh fruit and vegetable items.  Students can serve themselves and create salads tailored to their taste preferences. There is something for everyone in a well-stocked salad bar.

The placement of the salad bar, and the visual appeal of the items on the bar are important aspects for maximizing use. Bars are more likely to be visited if they sit directly in a traffic pattern, with eye-catching displays.

  • 32 salad bars were enhanced;
  • Over 50 signs were purchased;
  • 32 grab-and-go stations were created or improved.

Chef and Cooking Events

Cooking events encourage positive attitudes towards food. Cooking events bring fun into the kitchen, allow chefs to work with students and staff to develop creative entrees, and build skills for lifelong healthy eating.

Chef-run cooking classes are also a hit with school nutrition staff. Chefs assist nutrition staff expand their cooking skills, prepare and sample new items, and enhance flavor on recipe items.

Operationally, scratch cooking can result in food that is more appealing to students.  Districts can use this method to manage costs and control nutritional quality.

  • 15 schools held a cooking event;
  • 299 middle school students wrote an essay about wanting to be a sous chef;
  • 4 new recipes were created.

Tray Waste Studies

Tray waste is one way to measure school meal consumption. By observing the food left on the tray, conclusions can be made about the food that was consumed. It is one of the most direct ways to report what children are eating.

Measuring student nutrition behaviors is good practice. Measurements help professionals identify working strategies, assist in menu planning, and ultimately reduce the amount of food waste. Sixteen schools in this cohort completed tray waste studies.

  • 7,515 trays were observed and coded;
  • 38 days of tray waste was observed and coded;
  • 6 summary reports were shared with school nutrition staff.

A Team Nutrition Training Grant, through the United States Department of Agriculture, funds the project. The grant is administered through the Ohio Department of Education, Office for Child Nutrition.

We thank the following school districts for sharing their activities, photographs, and data. Their stories will be posted on this blog over the upcoming months.

Austintown Local; Beavercreek City; Black River Local; Boardman Local; Cloverleaf Local; Columbus City; Edison Local; Fairfield Local; Fairview Park City;

Grand Valley Local; James A. Garfield Local; Leipsic Local; Marlington Local; Minster Local; Mount Vernon City; Pickerington Local; Springfield Local; Sebring Local; Summit Academy – Xenia; Warren City.


Hello, My Name Is: YUMMY!

What is in a name? Product marketers will tell you – A WHOLE LOT! Product names are designed to be eye-catching and enticing for customers to purchase. Jazz up your menu with fun, tasty ways to describe fruits, vegetables, and entrées.

Take a look at the food items below:

Chicken Salad         Fiesta Chicken Salad

Green Beans            Garden Fresh Green Beans

Potato Soup             Creamy Harvest Potato Soup

Which items are you more likely to try – the ones on the left or the right? Why are these items more appealing?

The names on the right are detailed and descriptive. They provide a mental image and taste of the food item. When you think of fiesta chicken salad, what comes to mind?  A mixture of spices, a party, excitement, tasty…

Here are few ideas to keep in mind when creating food names for your cafeteria:

Creating a Name


  1. Food Properties: Use words associated with properties of the item – sizzling, rich, juicy. Descriptive, sophisticated names are better suited for middle school and high school students.
  1. Imaginative/Playful: Use fun or silly words to grab the attention of younger kids – black belt, lean mean, super star. These descriptions are appropriate for elementary school students.
  1. School Branding: Create names associated with the school colors or mascot – Monarch bowl, Panther pizza, Wildcat burger. Branding your cafeteria creates a community feel. This technique can be used for all age groups.

Once your team has decided on new, exciting names incorporate them into the lunch menu. Prime students by creating signs, posters and decals. Routinely rotate food item names to maintain student interest.

For more ideas, check out the Food Naming Word Bank under the Resources tab above.

Key to Naming

Get students involved in the naming process! Creating a buzz around a new food item will peak interest and increase desire to try the item. Here are a few ways you can get your students involved:

  1. Hold a contest. Choose a specific food item and have students come up with their own ideas.
  1. Student vote. After collecting all the names, allow students to vote on which ones they like best.

Engaging students in the naming process will allow them to take ownership. Kids will be more likely to try a food item if they are involved in the naming process.

Creating fun, exciting names is an easy change to make. By simply altering the perspective of food items, you will notice an increase in selection and participation!

Share Your Ideas!

What are some fun descriptive names that you use in your cafeteria? Share your ideas by leaving a comment below!

Don’t Forget to…SHOW US YOUR APPLES!

REMEMBER, the basket challenge is going on now. ALL contest entries will receive a prize! Click HERE for contest details and how you can enter your award winning basket!

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