Six Approaches to Improving Student Nutrition
Establish Nutrition Standards for Competitive Foods [pdf 85K] Stories [pdf 100K]
Nutrition standards list criteria that determine which foods and beverages can and cannot be offered on a school campus. One approach to setting standards is to increase options, such as requiring that schools offer fruits or vegetables at all locations where snacks are available. A second approach is to limit options, such as stipulating that schools cannot sell foods with more than a specified number of grams of fat per serving, or cannot deep-fry foods.
Nutrition standards are often incorporated into the written policies of a State agency, school district, or school. They can be mandatory or voluntary. When appropriate, they can be accompanied by information on brand name products that meet the nutrition standards.
Influence Food and Beverage Contracts [pdf 70K]
Stories [pdf 90K]
Vending contracts give food and beverage companies selling rights in return for cash and non-cash benefits to the school or district. Schools and school districts can influence vending contracts in several ways. They can cancel contracts, not sign contracts, not renew contracts, or negotiate contracts that encourage healthy eating. Many existing vending contracts require schools to allow the marketing of products high in added fats and sugars. Others provide incentives for schools to encourage their students to choose those products.
Following are some of the provisions that have been found in school vending contracts.
- A commission that increases with sales volume; in some contracts, the commission is higher for certain types of products than for others.
- Bonuses paid when sales pass a specified quota.
- Lump sum payments independent of sales volume (known as “sponsorship fees” or “incentive monies”).
- Provision of non-cash benefits such as class parties, sponsorship of field trips, equipment, and scoreboards with company logos or ads for specific products.
- Specifications on the number of vending machines installed on campus, where machines are located, when they are open for use, the types of products offered, the costs of the various items to be sold, and the images on the front of machines.
- Opportunities for the company to advertise its products on campus through free samples, promotional products, and additional signage.
- Exclusivity clauses that forbid the school or district from selling any competing products on campus.
- Confidentiality clauses so that the contents of the contract remain private.
- Contract length (in some cases, 10 years or longer) and the conditions for terminating or revising the contract.
Make More Healthful Foods and Beverages Available [pdf 85K]
Stories [pdf 220K]
Making more healthful foods and beverages available is all about making nutritious choices easy for students. Schools can add more nutrient-rich items to à la carte lines, vending machines, snack bars, and student stores. Or they can reduce the number of high-fat/high-sugar items, and replace them with more nutritious choices.
There are many options that schools are offering:
- Low-fat milk
- Bottled water and water from drinking fountains
- 100% fruit juices
- Soy products such as soy milk
- Low-fat yogurt
- Fresh fruits, such as apples, strawberries, and bananas
- Dried fruit such as apricots and apples
- Raw vegetables such as carrots, celery, and cucumbers
- Salads and salad bars, with a variety of vegetables and legumes such as chick peas
- Animal crackers or graham crackers
- Whole grain breads and deli sandwiches
- Trail mix
- Low-fat popcorn
Adopt Marketing Techniques [pdf 65K]
Stories [pdf 165K]
Offering healthful foods and beverages in schools does not guarantee that students will choose them. To help young people improve their eating habits, schools must promote healthful choices by adopting some of the effective techniques used by the food industry.
Effective marketing involves more than just communication. Marketing means focusing on the target audience and learning how to satisfy its needs and wants. Effective marketing centers on designing the best marketing mix, also known as the 4 Ps:
- Identifying and offering PRODUCTS that meet student needs.
- PLACEMENT of products in locations so they are easy to choose.
- PROMOTION of products so that students know about them and are motivated to try them.
- Setting the PRICE of products so that students will want to buy them.
Limit Student Access to Competitive Foods [pdf 90K]
Stories [pdf 80K]
Limiting access means making it more difficult for students to obtain competitive foods and beverages. The term competitive foods refers to any food or beverage served outside of Federal meal programs, regardless of nutritional value. Some school districts limit student access to competitive foods in all schools, while others do so only in some schools (e.g., elementary schools).
Schools can limit student access to competitive foods by several means:
- Reducing the number of places where students can obtain competitive
foods. For example, schools can restrict all competitive sales in the
cafeteria or vending machines. Or they can reduce the total number of
vending machines with competitive items or the number of competitive
items sold à la carte.
- Changing the locations where foods and beverages are sold. For
example, they can move a vending machine from just outside the cafeteria
to a more isolated location.
- Prohibiting the sale of competitive foods during specified times, such as during lunch periods, from 1 hour before until 1 hour after lunch, or from the beginning of the school day until the end of the last lunch period.
- Reducing the number of places where students can obtain competitive foods. For example, schools can restrict all competitive sales in the cafeteria or vending machines. Or they can reduce the total number of vending machines with competitive items or the number of competitive items sold à la carte.
Use Fundraising Activities and Rewards [pdf 60K]
Stories [pdf 105K]
Fundraising supports student health when it involves selling nutritious foods and beverages (e.g., fruits, vegetables, 100% fruit juice, low-fat milk) or selling non-food items, such as wrapping paper, candles, or student artwork. Schools can also raise money and promote health at the same time through, for example, a walk-a-thon or jump rope contest.
Rewards support student health when they involve using non-food items or activities to recognize students for their achievements or good behavior, if an extrinsic reward system is used. These types of rewards include stickers, books, or extra time for recess.