Add the USDA to Your Team Nutrition


Team NutritionWhat if we told you with one simple click you could have hundreds of FREE resources available at your fingertips? Recipes, menus, MyPlate materials, colorful stickers and posters, staff training programs – all delivered directly to your office or simply downloaded to your computer. Team Nutrition is available to guide your cafeteria project to success!

Team Nutrition

I’m sure you are wondering what exactly is Team Nutrition? This initiative is part of the USDA Food and Nutrition Service, supporting the Child Nutrition Programs. Team Nutrition focuses on training and technical assistance for foodservice, nutrition education for children and their caregivers, and school and community support for healthy eating and physical activity.

Resource Bank

One of our main goals is to fill your resource bank with materials to aid in your nutrition initiatives. Three large categories of resources available through Team Nutrition are – Promotional Items, Menus and Recipes, and Curriculum and Education.

The following are resources recommended by Ohio Team Nutrition Coordinator, Susan Patton. Susan said it was hard to pick just three resources, but these are her current “go-to” materials:

  1. Try Day StickerMake Today a Try-Day Stickers – These fun stickers are great for reinforcing students’ willingness to try new food items! Use them with a taste-testing event or designate a day of the week as a “Try It Day”.
  1. Menus that Move – Menus that Move is a set of seasonal cycle menus that incorporate USDA new meal guidelines. Each seasonal cycle menu contains five weekly menus for grades K-8 and 9-12.

Garden Detective

  1. The Great Garden Detective Adventure – This is a standards-based gardening nutrition curriculum for grades 3 and 4. Through investigations and fun experiences, kids discover which fruits and vegetables are the sweetest, crunchiest, and juiciest! This resource is excellent for connecting the school garden to the classroom, school cafeteria, and home.

For hundreds of other resources, check out the Team Nutrition Healthy Meals Resource System. Take advantage of all that Team Nutrition has to offer. You’ll be amazed at what you might find!

Join the Team

Team Nutrition Schools focus attention on the importance of nutritious school meals, nutrition education, and a health promoting school environment. By doing so, students learn to enjoy healthy eating and physical activity. Team Nutrition Schools work together with school nutrition staff, teachers, parents, the media and other community members to encourage healthy behaviors. To learn more about Team Nutrition behavior focused strategies and school enrollment, follow the link below.

Become a Team Nutrition School!

Ready, Set, Goal!


Before you get ready to take off, make sure you set a goal!apple-circle

A goal should identify a specific behavior target. Good goals are also realistic and attainable – the goal should motivate us, not overwhelm us. Here are five nutrition goals you might consider for your cafeteria project. Pick one or more of these examples, or feel free to create your own target.carrot-circle

  • Number of reimbursable meals sold
  • Fruit selection and consumption
  • Vegetable selection and consumption
  • Salad bar use
  • Milk and dairy intakegreen-pepper-circle

For each goal, you will need to implement multiple strategies to produce change. Rarely, does one activity bring about change in complex eating behaviors.

Maximize Your Resources

Before beginning your cafeteria project, identify what resources are available to you and your staff. Next, begin to select activities that work together toward the desired end result. Instead of doing a little of everything, organize activities around the goal(s). This goal-driven approach to selecting activities gets the biggest bang for your buck.

Track and Measure Change

Once your project goal(s) is created, now it’s time to track and measure change! A well-stated goal should tell us the item to be measured. It will also be easier to describe the amount of change your project has achieved if you document the starting point. Check back later this month for our next blog introducing suggested measures for these behaviors!

How Does Your Cafeteria Score?


Why do we need to complete environmental checklists? Think about your daily work routine. You encounter the same co-workers, tend to the same tasks and know your work place environment like the back of your hand. With familiarity, though, we may not notice smaller details. The environmental checklist allows you to see your workplace through a different lens.

CodersThe Smarter Lunchrooms Scorecard is a simple way to identify opportunities for improvement. This easy-to-complete scorecard focuses on six key cafeteria service areas:

  • Focusing on fruit
  • Promoting vegetables and salad
  • Moving more white milk
  • Entrée of the day
  • Increasing sales and reimbursable meals
  • Creating school synergies

Check the items that are already in place. Once the scorecard is complete, take time to review the unchecked items. The unchecked items can become areas to address in your cafeteria update!

Using Photos

While you’re filling out your Smarter Lunchrooms Scorecard, grab a camera and take some shots! Photos can also help you see your cafeteria through a different lens.  Make sure to capture all aspects of the cafeteria, including the service areas. These photos will be helpful later in documenting change. Follow these simple tips for great photos:

  1. Make sure the item/area is well lit
  2. Play with different angles
  3. Take multiple shots of the same subject
  4. Move in close to catch details
  5. Click a wide view to show set-up and flow

Involve Others

The scorecard can be a useful tool for getting others involved in your project. Ask teachers, parents and wellness committee members to fill out a scorecard too. It doesn’t hurt to have a fresh set of eyes to help your team achieve success! After reviewing the scorecards, you and your team will likely have plenty of great ideas!

Set a Goal

Before painting walls, buying baskets and moving milk cartons, take a brief moment and decide what you would like to accomplish with your cafeteria update. What behavior changes would you like to see through your project? This is your project goal. By setting goals and sharing progress updates, others will be able to follow your success story. Check back on our next blog to learn more about goal setting!

Click on the link below to access your Smarter Lunchrooms Scorecard!

Smarter Lunchrooms Self-Assessment

The Lunch Tray

kids and food, in school and out

Live Healthy Live Well

Ohio State University Extension Family and Consumer Sciences

School Meals That Rock

Featuring school nutrition programs that serve kids well

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