In 2013, the Oskaloosa Community School District began implementing Smarter Lunchrooms techniques. These techniques were developed by fellow Iowan, Dr. Brian Wansink, & his colleagues at the B.E.N. Center of Cornell University. Smarter Lunchrooms uses behavioral economics to nudge people into choosing healthier items. Julie Miller, Child Nutrition Director at Oskaloosa Schools, found the idea fascinating, & decided to implement some of the items in her lunchrooms.
Here are the Smarter Lunchroom techniques that have worked well for Oskaloosa:
- Fruit displays: there is now a fruit station at OHS and a fruit cart at OMS; a variety of fresh fruits are available daily.
- Produce has gotten revamped with the use of Garden Bars at OES (they are named this b/c they contain only fruits & veggies), and salad bars at OMS & OHS. The salad bar at OHS has a line 3-4 people deep of students waiting to get their fill at lunch daily!
- The vegetables are the first hot item the students see at OHS, encouraging them to give them a try!
- Descriptive names have been used, mainly at OES. The students enjoy hearing the principals read names such as ‘Buff Broccoli’ and ‘Goofy Grapes’ over the morning announcements.
- White Skim milk is the 1st choice in the milk coolers, so a little effort is required if students want to choose chocolate milk.
- A grab ‘n go reimbursable meal was created for the middle school & high school students: since Oskaloosa is the ‘Home of the Indians,’ the meal was named the ‘Indian Power Pack.’
The fruit station @ OHS. It is typically well stocked with a variety of fruits…kiwi being one of their favorites! However, this picture was taken on a Friday, after the fruit supply had been well depleted for the week! This is the first thing that students see when they walk into the kitchen.
The fruit cart that is used at OMS & OHS. It is typically stocked with all sorts of fruits, such as oranges, pears, tangerines, clementines, apple pears, bananas, etc; however, the most popular fruit by far is apples!
The variety of offerings on the OHS salad bar changes daily. There is always romaine/spinach blend, & a ‘fruit of the day’ on the bar, as well as various salad toppings.
The Garden Bar @ OES. There are always 2 fruits & 2 vegetables for the students to choose from. The variety changes on a daily basis. Students come through the lunch line to get their meal, & then head to the Garden Bar to stock up on fresh fruits & vegetables.
The Indian Power Pack contains the following: a yogurt cup, piece of fresh fruit, a muffin, carrots w/ranch cups, string cheese, napkins, & silverware. All the student needs to do is grab this, milk, & they’re ready for lunch!
The outcome of implementing these strategies has been positive. Students are choosing (& eating!) additional produce, namely fruit. There will need to be some additional marketing done to raise vegetable consumption, particularly at the secondary level. The grab ‘n go reimbursable meal has become a popular choice for students. Oskaloosa plans to continue implementing Smarter Lunchrooms techniques, as they are low-cost/no-cost, and fairly easy to accomplish. Both of those are critical when operating a school nutrition program!
***Special Thanks to Julie Miller, Child Nutrition Director at Oskaloosa Schools for providing article content and photographs