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Smarter Lunchrooms: Butternut squash at William Paca/Old Post Road

University of Maryland Extension’s school-based Food Supplement Nutrition Education (FSNE) programs reach students, teachers, and parents in low income communities including after-school sites, summer meal programs and public schools where 50% or more students qualify for free or reduced-price school lunch.
 
The goal of the FSNE school-based programs is to integrate key nutrition messages into the school curriculum, policies, the lunchroom, and family shopping and meals.
 
Youth who participate in FSNE programs report higher preferences for healthy foods and a greater consumption of fruits and vegetables after program participation. Elementary-aged youth also demonstrate higher self-efficacy in preparing fruits and vegetables at home, selecting them when dining away from home, and asking someone in their family to purchase their favorite fruits and vegetables.
 
Smarter Lunchrooms is a piece of the FSNE program and is an evidence-based approach to encouraging selection of healthy foods in the school cafeteria. By making simple, low- to no-cost changes in how food is arranged, displayed, and marketed on the service line, students are 'nudged' toward healthy choices. FSNE's Smarter Lunchrooms programming facilitates adoption of healthy eating behaviors by linking environmental changes in the school cafeteria to nutrition education in the classroom.
 
Chrissa Carlson, Smart Lunchrooms coordinator, was recently at William Paca/Old Post Road for a butternut squash event.
 
“When I was introduced to the cafeteria in the William Paca building of William Paca/Old Post Road Elementary School, I was hoping it would be a great 'advanced' site where FSNE could experiment with fun ways to connect nutrition education and the cafeteria, and were I could learn best practices for encouraging healthy eating in one of the most important childhood eating environments.
 
Yesterday confirmed what a very special site this is, and affirmed my belief in the power of creating a positive culture around healthy foods and an environment that nudges students toward those healthy choices. I was blown away by the work the food service staff puts into the work every day. KUDOS to Ron and his team!
 
The squash samples the team prepared were delicious, and I know how labor intensive peeling and cutting hard squashes is! The kids were excited for the opportunity to taste, and even those who didn't care for a particular variety embraced the experience.
 
Students participating in FSNE nutrition education lessons were excited to earn a sticker for their tasting passports. We'll continue to generate ideas for how to connect nutrition education in the classroom to experiences in the cafeteria, and how to connect with parents.
 
We are confident that addressing student eating habits will benefit both their personal health as well as their academic achievement.”