In November of 2016, Broward County Public Schools (BCPS) adapted implementation of the Smarter Lunchroom movement concept. Staff from BCPS Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) were invited to participate in the three- session course, where 10 continuing education points were given. The first session was an introduction to the initiative, in which a lecture was given by Beth Owens from University of Florida’s Family Nutrition Program. The second session was a hands on demonstration with celebrity chef Rudy Poindexter where staff learned healthy food preparation tactics. The final session is scheduled for Wednesday, March 1, where BCPS FNS staff will have the opportunity to present their smarter lunchroom concept and review how it has changed student eating behaviors.
The Smarter Lunchroom movement was first established in 2009 by Cornell University’s Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition (BEN Center). The low to no cost idea identifies areas for opportunity in increasing school lunch participation while also decreasing plate waste. The notion is that little changes in school cafeterias yield students to choose healthy, nutrient dense foods. Over 30 million children participate in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). In Broward county alone, nearly 62% of students are enrolled in the NSLP. It is important that our students receive a balanced meal.
Concepts of the Smarter Lunchroom Movement include focusing on fruits, increasing sales of reimbursable meals, promoting vegetables and salads, creating school synergies by displaying posters of healthy foods, making white milk more available, and promoting an entree of the day. Many of these concepts have already taken place in BCPS cafeterias. Our schools offer fruit with each meal service and there is a daily salad featured, including, vegan salads for those who refrain from the consumption of meat. Of particular interest is the collaboration with Broward Regional Health Planning Council and their TOUCH program. TOUCH (Transforming Our Community’s Health) is a community health initiative funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The grant, which promotes and targets healthier lifestyles, is administered by the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Since 2015, BCPS FNS has partnered with TOUCH in working to bring about awareness of healthy eating in schools. The initiative in the schools is the GO, SLOW, WHOA nutrition education program, in which a traffic light system identifies foods as being healthiest, healthier, and not so healthy.
“Every public school in Broward county has received signage that advocates healthy food choices in school cafeterias”, says program administrator, Bridget Lane. Bridget Lane has been implementing the county wide program since September 2015. While she focuses on placement of signage, she also educates the school cafeteria personnel on the nutrition education program and the importance of encouraging children to choose healthy, balanced meals. “GO, SLOW, WHOA is a simple way for students to identify which foods reap health benefits. We have decals on the service line, targetting “GO” foods, “Did You Know?” posters throughout the dining room that give nutrition facts, and posters on the walls that discuss the health benefits of eating more fruits and vegetables,” she says.
Together, the Smarter Lunchroom movement and the partnership with TOUCH has given BCPS an advantage of becoming a healthier school district. The efforts are aligned with school food service Best Practice principles with specific focus on small changes to create a more healthy environment.