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Embracing Teachable Moments in Minnesota

School meals are quite often the healthiest, and sometimes the only, meals some children receive. At Sky Oaks Elementary School in Minnesota, we believe that encouraging and empowering our students towards a healthy lifestyle is crucial. Once they understand how fantastic certain foods make them feel, students continue eating them. In turn, we are seeing students encourage and empower their peers, as well as their families, to make healthy choices—what a delightful chain reaction!

Getting children to try new fruits is easy. Veggies prove to be a tough sell, but our veggie consumption sky rocketed when we started roasting them. One trick is to offer a “Sprinkle or Scoop.” It gives me great pride to see how many “scoops” we actually serve now. In fact, while ten pounds of veggies used to last the entire lunch service, today we cut it close when we roast up 75 pounds! It’s amazing when you see your students come to the realization of how delicious fruits and veggies truly are.

US Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service Administrator Audrey Rowe talks with Sky Oaks Elementary School Cook Manager Tracy Smith about the new school meals standards.

Promoting healthy eating is also important—we try to make it fun and interesting for students. We started small by writing food facts and trivia on dry-erase boards. We used the My Plate logo on signs with quick and catchy sayings easy to students to remember and repeat. We started holding simple contests like guessing the number of beans in a jar or “Name the Grain.” 

We also host Mystery Servers…the possibilities are endless. The School Nutrition Association’s promotional calendar gives ideas for mystery servers: school staff and board members, mayor, police chief, members of the armed forces, farmers, mascots, fitness trainers, local celebrities, etc.

The secret to our success really isn’t a secret: it starts with a kind face and a smile, along with explaining the “why” behind healthy eating. Children crave knowing the “why” and once they understand, they pass it on. We embrace every teachable moment.

See other blog posts in this series: