Smarter Lunchroom Advisory Councils (SLACs): Impacting Positive Changes in Cafeterias and Student Choices

High schoolers and middle schoolers around the state of Montana are a part of the Smarter Lunchrooms process to improve fruit and vegetable consumption and decrease plate waste! By forming Smarter Lunchroom Advisory Councils (SLACs), students, teachers, administrators, food service staff, and others at each school have had open communication about school lunch and brainstormed and implemented actionable solutions that work. Montana researchers have partnered to figure out best practices for Smarter Lunchroom teams.

Who is involved?

SLAC ImageA SLAC should include at least 5 to 6 people made up of 1 to 2 students, a food service staff member, an administrator or teacher, a Montana State University (MSU) Extension professional or relevant community leader, and other people interested in improving school lunch (don’t forget parents!).

Those involved should be excited about changing their school cafeteria and be diverse from one another (e.g., different grades, interests, and peer groups). Make sure that one of the students on the SLAC regularly eats in the cafeteria and at least half make food (meal or snack) purchases. Make sure your group has approval from the school and a mentor is available to meet on a regular basis.

It’s time to get started!

First things first, use your SLAC team and/or gather some classmates and have them brainstorm some positive areas and room for improvement in the lunchroom. There are four easy steps that you’ll follow to score your lunchroom and start with healthy changes. After your team has a good idea of the opinions about the cafeteria, introduce the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement as a way to improve food choices in your school.

  1. Score It: Use the Smarter Lunchrooms Scorecard to see what your lunchroom’s total score is.
  2. Choose It: Using the results of the Scorecard, choose at least one change(s) to work towards to encourage your classmates to make healthier eating habits.
  3. Do It: Now it’s time to create and implement a plan to make your chosen change. Remember to take some pre change measurements so you know where you started, then make your change(s).
  4. Check It: Take some measurements to see what difference your change(s) made in the food choices of you and your classmates.

Plan how you will share results and successes with your stakeholders, the media, and other interested groups. Also make sure to thank collaborators, share your story, and plan next steps!

The Montana research team is just beginning to test their process and will be back with more details and a full guide for states across the US to utilize soon. Stay tuned!


Authors of this blog post include:

The Montana research team – Carmen Byker Shanks and Emily Tosoni (Montana State University Food and Health Lab), Katie Bark and Molly Stenberg (Montana Team Nutrition), and Carrie Ashe (Montana State University Extension).

The work is funded by the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs (BEN Center) and Montana Team Nutrition (2015-17 TNT grant).

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