Get the Facts and Give School Lunch A Second Chance

Maine is leading the nation in school lunch advancements. To see the progress for yourself, view our exciting Public Service Announcement. 

View the :30 version here.

In Maine’s Let’s Go! lunchrooms:

  1. Fruit is always in at least two locations. This increases fruit selection by 103%!
  2. Colorful salad bars are front and center. Locating a salad bar in the main flow of traffic increases student selection 200-300%!
  3. Low-fat white milk is in the front of every cooler and water is easy to find. Because students are more likely to grab what’s most accessible, this decreases the consumption of sugary drinks.
  4. Students are involved in lunchroom improvements. For example, they influence the menu by taste testing and assist in the development of creative, descriptive names for food items (X-ray vision carrots, etc.). Renaming food items alone can almost triple consumption.

Tools for Change

Let’s Go! partners with the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Program (BEN Center) to introduce the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement (SLM) to school cafeterias. The goal of this initiative is to implement simple, low-and-no-cost changes in the lunchroom to nudge kids to make nutritious choices on their own and ultimately improve participation and profit in school lunch programs while decreasing waste. SLM provides school cafeterias with 100, research-based, best practices. For example:

  • Introducing a dedicated “healthy line” with grab-and-go salads and healthy sandwiches decreased consumption of less healthy foods by 28%.
  • Moving the salad bar to a more convenient location increased salad selection by over 200%.
  • Making healthier options more convenient increased sales of healthier options by 18% and decreased grams of less healthy food sold by 28%.

Many of the 100 best practices have been achieved in lunchrooms all over the state. Over 100 Maine schools have been recognized by the USDA as going above and beyond federal nutrition standards due to their commitment to improve the quality of food provided to students. Old favorites – pizza, for example – is now made with whole grain crust and low-fat cheese, topped with veggies and portioned appropriately for a student. A 2014 study conducted by Tufts University actually found school lunch to be healthier than the food in children’s lunchboxes, due to the fact that school cafeterias are limiting sugar, sodium, fat and calories while many of the lunches brought from home contain packaged foods, sugary beverages, desserts, and more calories overall.