- Author: Evelyn Morales
- Contributor: Hannah Lee
- Contributor: Tacu Vang
- Contributor: Mishelle Petit
The UC CalFresh Nutrition Education Program and Fresno Unified School District Food Services Department began implementation of the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement (SLM) in 9 elementary schools starting during the 2017-2018 school year. SLM is dedicated to providing schools with the knowledge, motivation, and resources needed to build a lunchroom environment that encourages healthy food choices as the easy choice. Through shared efforts, over 6,000 students were impacted. Below are summaries of each school that participated in SLM during the 2017-2018 school year.
Ayer Elementary- Silver Award
Ayer's student council, led by 6th-grade teacher Mr. Villanueva, headed the SLM project. The council's main priority was coming up with creative names for lunch menu items. Some of their ideas included fiesta salad, fresh tropical tangy fruit, and big and bold broccoli. To give more students an opportunity to participate in SLM implementation, UC CalFresh held an SLM booth at the spring carnival, where students could create Fruit and Veggie-of-the-Day cards, sign thank you cards for School Lunch Hero Day, and draw artwork for the cafeteria. Different grade levels were also given the opportunity to contribute original artwork to the lunchroom cafeteria.
Molly S. Bakman Elementary - Silver Award
UC CalFresh worked with the principal, Melissa Jones, and cafeteria manager, Gracie Garcia, to implement changes to the cafeteria space. UC CalFresh coordinator Tacu Vang helped provide the technical assistance needed to guide staff to create a healthier cafeteria environment for the students by providing signs and decals promoting healthy options. He also helped find resources for the school to hang a MyPlate banner that was unused. Bakman showed a six-point improvement by the end of the year, putting the school in the silver SLM category. This was a big improvement and reinforced the commitment the school made to creating a healthier environment for students.
Birney Elementary - Silver Award
Birney Elementary had a successful second year of SLM implementation. The lunchroom environment was further enhanced with the addition of new colorful nutrition posters and a nutrition corner that were changed bi-monthly. Students mentioned they looked forward to the nutrition corners and seeing their artwork displayed. Birney cafeteria staff regularly utilized the menu board to highlight both breakfast and lunch items. At the end of the year, the final scorecard showed a six-point improvement to the lunchroom through the use of creative and descriptive names on menu items. UC CalFresh hopes to increase student involvement by including suggestions of creative and descriptive names, renaming the lunchroom, providing feedback, and continuing to use student artwork.
Homan Elementary - Silver Award
This year UC CalFresh Coordinator, Nora Lopez, had the opportunity to work with Irma Rodriguez, Homan's Elementary cafeteria manager. In the first visit to the cafeteria back UC CalFresh staff was surprised Irma was still using a My Pyramid poster; she loved the pictures and bright colors the poster provided for the students. UC CalFresh let her know MyPlate was the most current guide to eating healthy. A Nutrition Corner was placed in the teachers' lounge using MyPlate to get her on board. After teaching nutrition lessons, adding a nutrition corner, and the Smarter Lunchroom concept was introduced, Irma began incorporating MyPlate and removed the My Pyramid poster. Irma welcomed SLM with open arms. Next school year's goals include working with the student club and the after-school program to create nutrition posters and creative names for the school menu. Irma is hard working, paying attention to students' comments and needs and is a valued contributor to SLM.
Lowell Elementary - Silver Award
With the students' exposure to nutrition education, SLM was a great way to reinforce the message of making healthier choices. Emily Leung, cafeteria manager, was very supportive of having the posters and stickers in clear visual areas, as well as making sure white milk was more visible than chocolate milk. Teachers and staff encouraged students to eat or try their fruits and vegetables during lunch time. UC Calfresh will continue to connect with Emily on improving their scorecard next year. UC Calfresh plans to connect with Lowell's student council group to build a health coalition to increase student involvement in the lunchroom. Overall, Lowell scored a total of 31 out of 60, earning them in a silver award.
McCardle Elementary - Silver Award
Headed by the lunchroom manager Sherie Jackson, McCardle's SLM had a successful first year. Nutrition and physical activity reinforcement posters and decals were posted in the cafeteria to liven up the environment and create healthy food “advertisements”. These posters, in conjunction with a MyPlate Nutrition Corner, sought to encourage students to consume more fruits and vegetables, and participate in physical activity. McCardle saw a three-point improvement through their interventions over the year. Improvements included placing a clear traffic pattern with the use of decals and footprints, identifying 1% or non-fat white milk as the featured milk, and displaying attractive and healthful posters in the cafeteria and service area. Next year McCardle will incorporate student leadership and school spirit to create nutrition and physical activity art contests that will be displayed in the cafeteria.
Robinson Elementary - Silver Award
UC CalFresh worked with the Cafeteria Manager to implement healthy food messaging by putting up a menu board displaying the meal-of-the-day, and fruit/vegetable-of-the-day cards both using creative names. They also increased the visibility of white milk in the coolers and included healthier food messaging to make the dining experience fun and enjoyable; improving students chances of consuming healthier meals. Student artwork was also placed in the cafeteria to make the students a part of the lunchroom experience. Students are excited to see their artwork in the lunchroom and the relationships between students and cafeteria staff have improved due to encouragement from school students and staff. To finish off the year, UC CalFresh partnered with the teachers to create thank you cards for the lunchroom staff from students to show their appreciation for the hard work done all year long.
Rowell Elementary - Silver Award
The students of the Rowell Elementary Spirit Club began the process of revamping their lunchroom through the SLM. Under the support and guidance of their school's Nutrition Educator, Ashley Abrahamson, and teacher Erica Alarcon the students created fun and creative names for lunch menu items. Since the Rowell mascot is the Rockets, the students unanimously agreed to maintain a space theme for both food items and their newly chosen cafeteria name. The spirit club voted on a new cafeteria sign that is now posted on the Space Station entry, filled the lunchroom with artwork created by their peers at a poster party, and hosted a grand opening celebration where Spirit Club students welcomed their friends to the Space Station as they entered for lunch.
Vang Pao Elementary - Silver Award
Smarter Lunchrooms at Vang Pao has been an essential addition to the school's healthy environment. Nutrition educator, Coraima Linares, led the improvements and successes at Vang Pao which included: adding healthy posters throughout the cafeteria along with updating the Nutrition Corner and keeping it well maintained. Another success noted was how the school made white milk the first choice and at least a third of the cooler, which earned them an extra point on their final scorecard. The goals for next year are to include students to help with maintenance and creativity of the cafeteria, incorporate the cafeteria manager as a role model to guide improvements, add creative descriptions to lunch menu items and rename the lunchroom. Coraima also plans to focus on identifying a champion teacher or student in the upcoming school year to support SLM.
If you would like a Smarter Lunchrooms technical assisting professional to visit your Fresno Unified elementary school please contact project coordinator Evelyn Morales at firstname.lastname@example.org./h3>/h3>/h3>/h3>/h3>/h3>/h3>/h3>/h3>