Who says kids won’t eat rutabaga? Certainly not Amy Klinkoski, M.S.,S.N.S., Nutrition Services Coordinator for Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS). She says kids will try - and like – vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and even low-fat foods – they just need a little coaching.
“Our healthy eating coaches interact with students in the cafeteria, engaging in conversations about what is served for lunch, and modeling positive nutrition and social behavior,” Klinkoski says. “They get students excited about eating healthy foods.”
Coaches sing songs, share trivia, run contests, award stickers, and generally make eating rutabagas seem incredibly smart and fun.
Creating Excitement in Your School Foodservice Program
For Klinkoski, all of this builds on classroom nutrition education driven by The OrganWise Guys (OWG). OWG is a comprehensive preschool and elementary school curriculum built around a group of engaging characters that personify the major organs of the body.
These characters empower the children to be “smart from the inside out” by teaching them about the negative impact of poor nutrition and lack of physical activity on each individual organ.
Klinkoski brings the OWG characters into the cafeteria on signs, posters, and cook’s aprons, helping kids make the connection between classroom lessons and food choices.
“You can’t just put new and different foods on a plate and expect kids to eat them,” she says. “You need to create excitement and encouragement.”
Excitement peaks on Wellness Wednesdays, when volunteer healthy eating coaches spend 30-60 minutes in the cafeteria at various elementary schools.
“Our volunteers range from staff members to food brokers, to Health Department personnel, Michigan State University Extension, and anyone else I can get to lend a hand,” Klinkoski says. “We provide them with training, fun nutrition facts, and a free lunch.”
How We Can Help
Gordon Food Service offers customers a way to start planning their steps toward getting students to eat healthy. The Nutrition Resource Center (NRC) is armed with a complete set of tools designed to help your school find the solution that best fits your needs. With webinars, a convenient hotline, publications, and online software available to Gordon Food Service customers, the NRC can guide you through the changes you need to make to your menu for the upcoming school year.
Upcoming webinar topics include “Food Allergies: What You Need to Know to Protect Your Customer, Student and/or Patient”, and “Administrative Review Process and Competitive Foods for Schools”. The NRC provides you with everything you need to start tackling some of the more difficult aspects of your students’ diets. (If you’re interested in participating in these webinars, learn more about becoming a customer.)
Publications such as Making the Grade, and Food Zone provide information toward marketing exciting foodservice programs in education. With helpful tips, menu and recipe ideas, and additional resources, Making the Grade provides the devices needed to get started on building your menu over the course of the year, while Food Zone provides the expert advice needed to keep you on track.
The NRC even offers online software to help you comply with the USDA Food and Nutrition Services regulations. Cycle Menu Management provides a full database of standardized recipes and sample menu templates for students from preschool, to K-12, to after school snacks and summer camps. All of the recipes and menus are complete with nutritional information, Gordon Food Service pricing, and automatically generated shopping lists.
With dozens of tools to help you succeed, coaching your students to eat healthy can be easy. How have you gotten your students to try healthier foods?