What does salad, milk, and boosting reimbursable meals have in common? All three can help increase the nutritional standards in your cafeteria by making it “smarter”! So, how is this possible, you may ask? Well, the answer resides on the Smarter Lunchroom Scorecard – a point-system based card used when engaging in the “Smarter Lunchroom Movement”.

The Smarter Lunchroom Movement is an advancement towards strategic innovation in the cafeteria that makes “the healthy choice the easy choice” for students.”

If you want to learn more about the basics and the first two categories of this movement, please refer to the first blog in this series by clicking here. In this particular blog, I will highlight the next three categories on the scorecard to help you make your lunchroom smarter!

Highlight the Salad       

When encouraging students to consume more salad, there are two basic types of salad you need to focus on: pre-packaged and self-served. Pre-packaged salads are very convenient as they allow a quick, on-the-go selection of salad for your students. You can get creative with your display with bright, colorful signs or even use unique packaging. Utilizing a kit-style package like the salad brand below may help attract more students to your leafy offerings.

Self-serve salad bars will also prove beneficial to your School Nutrition Program as they provide an outlet of freedom to your students. They can pack on as much or as little as they desire to satisfy that need for individual decision-making in the cafeteria. Self-serving stations also open the door for creative displays that can influence your students even further to make healthy, green selections. Neat, colorful offerings with a variety of fruits, vegetables, and dressings will help boost participation and increase the likelihood of your students truly enjoying what you serve.

Move More White Milk

Got Milk? I sure hope so, and so should you! Increasing white milk consumption in your cafeteria is a key way to make it “smarter” without too much effort. The best strategy for this need is make it as available as possible. Ensure that all of your coolers remain filled throughout service with white milk and that it makes up 1/3rd of all the milk in these designated coolers. Additionally, milk needs to be displayed in front of all other beverage options, as well as “featured” on a regular basis to maximize exposure to students. The more they see it, the more they will drink it, and the higher your score will be.

Boost Reimbursable Meals

Generating excitement and increasing the purchasing frequency of reimbursable meals is arguably the most important category on the Smarter Lunchroom Scorecard. This category has the highest amount of points available to earn, at 11. Some of the big strategies that can drive participation include: having a featured entrée-of-the-day, signage showing how to make a reimbursable meal in each line, and offering annual taste tests.

Featuring a particular entrée each day can pique the interest of students who might have their mind made up on what they want to eat before they even enter the cafeteria. Breaking that cycle for students who eat the same thing every day can drastically increase the amount of reimbursable meals chosen for lunch.

Outside of boosting awareness of your complete meals, it is equally important to boost the knowledge of how to create these meals. As obvious as it may seem to you, what is required to make up a reimbursable meal may not be so obvious to your students. Instructions in each line that show students what items should be purchased to make up that USDA approved combination will help make the healthy choice, the easy choice in your cafeteria.

Another simple, yet effective way to boost excitement and participation in your meal program is to offer annual taste tests to your kids. This encourages students to try new food they may have never considered or heard of before. It is also a great opportunity to personally engage with your students and inform them about the various aspects of your School Nutrition Program.

Coming up next!

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for the last part of this blog series! I will explore the three final categories on the Smarter Lunchroom Scorecard to provide you valuable insight on how your cafeteria can take the final steps in becoming as smart as possible.