And The Winner Is…

Our first Basket Challenge has come to an end. CONGRATULATIONS to Little Miami High School (Maineville, OH), Ethel M. Taylor Academy (Cincinnati, OH), and Maple Elementary (Chardon, OH) for creating and submitting awesome fruit displays!

Little Miami Fruit Basket

Little Miami High School

Ethel M Taylor Fruit

Ethel M. Taylor Academy

Chardon Fruit Display

Maple Elementary

Each team was able to incorporate multiple Smarter Lunchroom techniques into their display. The following techniques were used:

  • Spice up the container. We chose to highlight three entries with different containers to show variety. Little Miami used a wicker basket, highlighted with a colorful cloth. Ethel M. Taylor Academy used a wire basket, which creates a simple backdrop. Maple Elementary used black containers, which allows for the colors of the fruit to pop!
  • Variety. All three displays incorporated multiple fruit items. Not only does variety provide color and contrast, but it increases the chance of consumption. A new study, published by the Rudd Center, identified that for every additional type of fruit offered, there was a significant increase (of 9%) in students who took fruit as part of their lunch.

We would like to recognize the hard working teams that put together these award winning fruit displays:

Little Miami High School: Rachel Tilford (Food Service Director), Nikki Lierman, Maragaret Haines, Cherry Frederick, Elaina Hurst, Jenn McKee, Linette Petry, Christy Stephens, and Judy Moore

Ethel M. Taylor Academy: Jana Moses (Lunchroom Manager),  Dianna Richard, and Cheryl White

Maple Elementary: Josephine Culliton (Food Service Director), Tammy Peine, and Jackie Sanislo

Thank you for your participation in our first OHIO Smarter Lunchrooms challenge!

Our next challenge will be held during the month of February. It’s time to spice up your menu and introduce kids to new food items! Check back soon for more details on our statewide Taste Test Event.

What’s Cooking? 5 Ways to Enjoy Apples!

Let’s be honest, an apple a day is boring. If you’re looking for a seasonal pick to spice up your cafeteria during the winter months, then it’s time to re-invent the apple! Use this time to emphasize diverse cooking techniques and introduce students to a variety of apple pairing combinations.

Apples Image - Blog

Here are a few ways to get students excited about apples!

  1. Bake ‘em. Apples can be the focus of an entrée or a dessert. Pair baked apples with pork for a tasty entrée, or with a grilled cheese sandwich for a crisp crunch. Also, who can resist a warm apple crisp?
  1. Create a specialty salad. Salads aren’t vegetable exclusive! Include sliced apples on the salad bar, or add them to a “grab-and-go” specialty salad. Students will love the “Spectacular Spinach Salad”  made with apples and raisins!
  1. Set up an apple dipping bar. Forget about bobbing for apples, it’s time to dunk them! Come up with a variety of dips to pair with sliced apples. For ideas, check out the following fruit dips provided by the USDA Mixing Bowl.
  1. Organize an apple taste test event. Offer a variety of cooked or raw apples for kids to try. Encourage participation and have the kids tell you what they think. For more resources on creating a taste test event, check out our Getting Started Guide and Taste Test Materials.
  1. On the go. Prompt students to grab a whole apple, or sliced apples, to enjoy during the lunch meal or as an afternoon snack.

Apples can be purchased year round and are a favorite fruit of many. Introducing and offering apples in a variety of ways allows kids to enjoy the fruit, while still taking a healthy bite!

For more information regarding apple facts, educational materials and bulk recipes, check out the USDA Seasonal Produce Guide.


Be sure to check back next week to find out the WINNER of our November basket challenge! We’ll be accepting entries until Friday, Dec. 4th, so if you missed out you still have some time.  Click HERE for more details!

Time Is Running Out!

There are only 2 weeks left of the “Show Us Your Apples” Basket Challenge! Don’t miss out on the FREE entry prizes. Send us a photo of your award winning fruit basket today! Click HERE for more details.

Fruit Basket Example

Bundling: A Two For One Deal!

For students, time is a commodity during a busy lunch period. Kids may forgo the lunch line to save time for socializing. Cut down line waiting by providing food items that take little time to serve and are easy to grab. Quicker lines equal increased participation and higher sales!

Bundled, “grab-and-go” meals are a simple, alternative way for providing reimbursable meals, while also making it easy and convenient for kids to eat healthy.

What to Include?

Before stocking the coolers with “grab-and-go” meals, have your staff come up with creative combinations.

  • Choose what students like. “Grab-and-go” meals don’t always have to be a sandwich and an apple. Bundle together food items that sell and comply with USDA guidelines for a reimbursable meal.
  • Rotate items. Continuously rotate food items that are bundled to maintain student interest.

Here are a few examples of non-traditional “grab-and-go” meals:

  • Deli wrap with a bright colored fruit cup
  • Pairing fruits and veggies with a side of hummus
  • Specialty salad with a muffin
  • Pairing yogurt and fruit with a side of homemade granola

Need ideas? Ask the students! Find out what they would like to be bundled together. The next step is to then identify a high traffic area for placement.

Location is Key!

Bundled meals should be easily accessible to students. Identify a high traffic area that would be ideal for a “grab-and-go” station.

Bundling Image

  • Use all-in-one stations. Place the bundled meals in a cooler that includes beverages. “Grab-and-go” stations should be a one stop shop for students.
  • Convenient and easy to grab. Place bundled meals on the middle shelf of a pantry, refrigerator or cooler.
  • Multiple locations is best. Make room for bundled meals in speed lines, such as the a la carte area or snack line.
  • Utilize a mobile cart. If possible, place bundled meals on a mobile cart to identify hot spot, high traffic areas.

If your cafeteria is new to “grab-and-go” meals, make sure to communicate the new options to students to encourage participation.

  • Use announcements
  • Verbally prompt students
  • Use signage

Bundled, “grab-and-go” reimbursable meals are another option for increasing participation and sales.  Start bundling in your cafeteria today!

Share Your Ideas!

What are the “grab-and-go” combinations 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!

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!

Show Us Your Apples!

Show us your apples… your oranges… and your bananas! It’s time to put fruit into the spotlight through creative display and placement.

November Basket Challenge

During the month of November we will be running a basket challenge! Put your best fruit basket to the test and win an 18 x 24, full color professionally designed Taste Test poster. We’ll also include 500 “Official Taste Tester” stickers!

Here are a few Smarter Lunchroom techniques to consider when creating your eye-catching, student-grabbing fruit basket:

  1. Spice up the container. Toss out the drab metal bins and use a woven basket or a tiered dessert tray to display fruit. Baskets come in a variety of sizes – find one that meets your space.
  2. Keep the fruit items whole. Whole fruits are easier for students to grab on the go.
  3. Use color and contrast to make the fruit pop. Place at least two fruits of different colors in a basket of a contrasting color. Try oranges with raisins, bananas with pears, or green and red apples.
  4. Use colorful packaging or stickers. Edible peel fruits (apples, oranges) can be wrapped in cellophane or sliced in baggies.
  5. Maximize accessibility to fruit. Use baskets or tiered trays with heightened levels for easier student access to fruit items. Tiered levels also provide dimension, which increases appeal.
  6. Use a small sign to encourage selection – use adjectives like local, seasonal, and fresh to describe the fruit. Encourage students to grab a fruit item for later by prompting them with the idea of “a great afternoon snack!”

Once you’ve created your basket, place it in a high traffic area. A great place for a fruit basket is right by the register. Make the fruit basket the last thing a student will see before they leave the lunch line!

Award Winning BasketLaura - Basket2

Here is a great example of an award winning fruit basket. Laura Hayes, of Marysville High School, utilizes a tiered stand to display whole fruit options by the register. The variety of whole fruits combined with the dark colored, metal stand really makes the colors of the fruit pop. The three tiers allow for easier access to the fruit items offered, as well as dimension for appeal. Way to go Laura!

How You Can Enter a Basket

Take a picture with your basket and send it to

ALL entries will receive 200 of our “Official Taste Tester” stickers. The winner of the Basket Challenge will be announced during the last week of November.


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