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UC CalFresh Yuba County: Making lunchrooms smarter

The Issue

For many parents, an ongoing battle with their child is about healthy eating practices. With more than one-third of U.S. children overweight or obese, promoting healthy eating behaviors has never been more essential. Out of this national crisis, The Smarter Lunchroom Movement (SLM) was born, spearheaded by Cornell University's Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs in 2009. Their evidenced-based approach helps nudge students to make healthier choices through low cost/no cost solutions; a lunchroom environment focus; promoting healthful eating behaviors; and using policy, systems, and environmental approaches to promote sustainability.

What Has ANR Done?

In 2013, the UC CalFresh Nutrition Education Program partnered with the California Department of Education and the Dairy Council of California to initiate "The Smarter Lunchroom Movement (SLM) of California" and began training school Food Service Directors in SLM practices. To date, over 250 school districts have received training, with 2,500 attendees statewide. An example of the influence this program has had is illustrated in Yuba County, where, within a year and a half, the total number of schools involved leaped from 1 to 19. UC CalFresh Yuba-Sutter County, the Dairy Council of California, and the Food Service Director of the Marysville Joint Unified School District (MJUSD) created a plan that provides training and technical assistance to school cafeteria managers with kits that include monthly thematic posters; creative name labels for salad bars; and School Lunch Hero nametags, accompanied by monthly talking points. In addition, "product placement" (locating healthier foods within close proximity to students' reach) occurred. Johnson Park Elementary School in Olivehurst was the original site for Yuba County SLM strategies.

The Payoff

Double milk sales, improved atmosphere, and increased student involvement!

MJUSD evaluation data from Johnson Park Elementary School indicates that improving the placement of white milk and increasing the number of servings offered has almost doubled sales at breakfast. A lunchroom self-assessment score card monitors school district progress toward the overall goal of improving the lunch atmosphere and student involvement, referred to as “school synergy,” while decreasing waste. Within a year the school experienced a 69% increase in sales of reimbursable meals; a 44% increase in fruit displays; a 31% improvement in promoting vegetables and salad; and a 36% improvement in displaying the entrée of the day. Importantly, “school synergy” increased by 30%.

Clientele Testimonial

"The Cafeteria Manager is really investing time and energy into smarter lunchroom strategies!" —Leslie Pring, Community Nutrition Adviser, The Dairy Council of CA


Supporting Unit: Youth, Families, and Communities Statewide Program

UC CalFresh Nutrition Education Program
Jona Pressman, UC CalFresh Program Supervisor, Butte County Cluster jmpressman@ucanr.edu
Andra Nicoli, UC CalFresh State Office, Program & Evaluation Analyst amnicoli@ucdavis.edu
Mary Ann Mills, UC CalFresh State Office, Smarter Lunchroom Representative mamills@ucdavis.edu