The Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Editor-in-Chief Linda Snetselaar, PhD, RDN, LD, FAND interviewed Dr. Marlene B. Schwartz, director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity and professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Connecticut, in a podcast Insights on the School Lunch Environment. The two discussed some challenges in the school lunch environment, how it has changed over time, strategies to make school lunches healthier, and future policy changes that could have a positive impact on school lunches.
Highlights from Dr. Schwartz’s interview
- The challenge to provide healthy food at a low price remains difficult.
- The requirement that each student take either a fruit or vegetable has led to plate waste concerns but Dr. Schwartz’s research and Harvard University research concluded otherwise.
- It’s important to keep communication between students and foodservice open! Provide samples and survey students for feedback.
Listen to Insights on the School Lunch Environment podcast for more details about each of these highlights and to hear Dr. Schwartz’s forecast on future policy changes that could make a huge difference in making the school lunch environment healthier.
Local Solutions to Address the Challenges
In Massachusetts, the Harvard University 2014 study Impact of the new U.S. Department of Agriculture school meal standards on food selection, consumption, and waste by Juliana Cohen, et al. found that, “Although food waste levels were substantial both pre- and post-implementation, the new guidelines have positively affected school meal selection and consumption.” Juliana Cohen will be a keynote speaker at JSI’s Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs Summit in May 2016.
Taste testing is a great way to introduce new foods to students leading to an increase in their consumption of new, healthier menu items and in turn help to lower plate waste. See JSI’s School Nutrition Program Marketing Resources for tips on how to conduct successful taste tests.
Creating an environment that nudges students toward healthier options, aka Smarter Lunchrooms, can also lead to reduced plate waste. Through a USDA Team Nutrition grant, JSI is offering schools in Massachusetts technical assistance and support to help use Smarter Lunchrooms strategies. Additionally, there are grants available to help fund Smarter Lunchrooms Movement interventions at your school.
To strengthen customer service and communication within your program and school, consider scheduling one or both of the JSI Workshops to Go: Focus on the Customer and Professional Communications. Don’t forget to check out JSI’s resources for credible information on all aspects of school nutrition.