For years now, federal and state mandates have dictated what schools can and cannot serve in their cafeterias. The goal is to support healthier choices and reduce childhood obesity, but it only works if kids actually eat healthy.
Every day students make decisions based on what is convenient and what we are familiar with. Educators plan to use those principals to make healthier choices the default for kids.
Cafeterias are filled with healthy food, but that doesn't mean kids are eating it.
“We are trying to get kids to make healthy choices or what we would consider a healthy choice, more frequently,” said Katherine Hoy, an educator from Cornell University. She visited Anderson on Monday, teaching school cooks simple changes that will make kids eat their fruits and veggies.
“What they do is take a term call behavioral economics which is the cross section of psychology and our behavior and they apply that to schools,” said Hoy.
Making healthy foods more visible, more convenient, tastier, and even placing them in different areas can make a difference.
“So if we take things, and put healthy items there, the likelihood of them selecting and eating them is going to be higher,” said Hoy.
Cafeteria workers learned to make foods sound more exciting and encourage kids they'll love it too.
“My ladies will actually stop and say take a bite of that,” said Barbara Camacho of the Anderson Union High School District.
It’s also about creating choices for kids. They are more likely to eat fruit if they have an option between a banana and an apple for instance.
“Now we have just one choice but we want to have two or three choices,” said Maureen Lewis, Director of Nutrition at Redding School District.
Schools are so enthused by the new ideas that some new practices will be set in motion as early as this week.
“A lot of these things to get implemented are low cost. It is basically labor and positive attitude,” said Lewis.
By teaching kids to eat healthier at school, the hope is that they will learn healthy habits for life.