Smarter Lunchrooms Movement of California Celebrates Healthier Choices at California School Nutrition Association Conference


Smarter Lunchrooms Movement of California Celebrates Healthier Choices at California School Nutrition Association Conference

21, November 2017 9:45 AM

Past and present members of the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement of California (SLM of CA) Collaborative gathered in conjunction with the California School Nutrition Association conference in November to celebrate nutrition education and healthier eating patterns in California schools. 

Dairy Council of California sponsored an SLM of CA reception hosted by collaborative partners University of California CalFresh, California Department of Education (CDE) Nutrition Services Division and California Department of Public Health. The reception was attended by school foodservice professionals from around California, as well as student nutrition activity committees.

A poster session allowed school foodservice professionals to share experiences learned from schools that have benefited from CDE Team Nutrition grants and SLM of CA interventions, while distinguished speakers recognized the collaborative and schools for their impactful efforts. 

Glen Price, Chief Deputy for State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson at CDE, recognized the collaborative for working to ensure, as he shared via Twitter, that “all children, all schools, and all communities have access to healthy foods.” 

Presenter and distinguished guests. L to R, Heather Reed, CDE; Lisa Melhouse, CDE; Caroline Kurtz, California Department of Public Health; and Glen Price, CDE.Price was so impressed by the improvements achieved through implementation of the SLM of CA strategies that he and State Superintendent Tom Torlakson plan to add cafeteria visits as they tour California schools. 

(Presenter and distinguished guests. L to R, Heather Reed, CDE; Lisa Melhouse, CDE; Caroline Kurtz, California Department of Public Health; and Glen Price, CDE.)

Caroline Kurtz, PhD, Branch Chief of the Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Branch at the California Department of Public Health, shared how the branch has been a contributing partner to the SLM of CA Collaborative and plans to continue the partnership with resources for materials development and professional training statewide. 

An as an example of a partnership in action, Kurtz also addressed continued support for obesity prevention efforts at the local level that will build upon the work being done in schools— extending the learning to parents to help them accept and value healthy changes at school. 

Lisa Melhouse, RDN, SNS, Nutrition Education Program Administrator at CDE’s Nutrition Services Division, is charged with oversight and development of nutrition education and training projects for nutrition professionals working in federal child nutrition programs. Melhouse played a critical role in bringing the CDE Team Nutrition SLM of CA grants to 48 school in California. 

Melhouse shared that, on average, schools awarded the grants implemented 20 additional smarter lunchroom practices. Schools added murals, signage and student art to eating spaces. Meal participation increased, less fresh fruit and milk ended up in the trash, and schools across the state engaged students themselves in revitalizing the cafeteria and promoting nutrition education— truly a combined effort to make a difference in the lives of students by helping them make healthier choices. 

Banning Unified School District Student Nutrition Advisory Council members presented on their activities and were honored for their campuswide student empowerment and engagement efforts. Students conducted research and menu testing to improve meal selection and reduce food waste. 

(Above, Banning Unified School District Student Nutrition Advisory Council members present on their projects and, below, are awarded a certificate of recognition by Tammy Anderson-Wise, Dairy Council of CA CEO.)

Many of the Student Nutrition Advisory Council activities addressed no-cost or low-cost strategies like improving the cafeteria environment, creating attractive food labels and positioning plain milk. The students are finding value in peer-to-peer education and are already planning future strategies and actions to improve nutrition education and food access in a Riverside County food desert where affordable, healthy food options are limited. 

Barbara Lee, Director of Campus Catering at Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District, was honored for her efforts in adopting innovative, technology-based nutrition education via a smart screen TV in the cafeteria setting. Piloted as part of the CDE Team Nutrition SLM of CA grant, the digital TV offered dual benefits by promoting meal options and providing nutrition education. 

“Through this project,” said Lee, “I’ve learned nutrition messages that are brief, focused and repetitive can be an effective and powerful way to provide nutrition information to students.” Learn more about Lee's pilot and results here.

(Presenters and awardees. L to R, Heather Reed, CDE; April Mackill, Plumas Lake Elementary School District; Barbara Lee, Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District; and Crystal Young, CDE.)    

The final awardee of the night was April Mackill, Food Service Manager for Plumas Lake Elementary School District. Honored for her efforts in student empowerment and partnership development to support the CDE Team Nutrition SLM of CA grant, Mackill recruited fifth-grade nutrition ambassadors to share daily nutrition messages, highlight locally sourced menu items and even hold taste tests for current and new entrees. A partnership with Principal Marcie Nichols to promote “Wonderful White Milk” resulted in increased selection of plain (versus flavored) milk and a significant decrease in the overall amount of milk being thrown away. Learn more about Mackill's efforts here.

Finally, this reception was an opportunity to recognize SLM of CA technical advising professionals for their services. These individuals, located across the state, work hand–in-hand with school nutrition professionals like Lee and Mackill to initiate the simple, four-step assessment and implementation process that makes the healthy choice the easy choice in the school cafeteria to improve the health of students. 

(SLM of CA technical advising professionals. L to R, Candice Sainz, Dairy Council of CA; Alyson Foote, Dairy Council of CA; Karina Macias, UC CalFresh; Evelyn Morales, UC CalFresh; Krystal Shelden, Dairy Council of CA; and Phoebe Copp, Dairy Council of CA.)


Shannan Young, RDN, SNS
Program Director, Food Systems and Access

Tags: balanced eating patterns behavioral economics California CDE CDPH child nutrition CSNA Healthy eating healthy eating for kids milk school foodservice school meals school nutrition Shannan Young smarter lunchrooms smarter lunchrooms movement of CA team nutrition technical advising professionals

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