Minnesota Smarter Lunchroom Collaborative
In the fall of 2016, three organizations formed a statewide collaborative to work together to identify ways to efficiently and effectively to improve school nutrition environments through implementation of Smarter Lunchrooms strategies.
Diverse organizations within Minnesota have a common goal: improve the school nutrition environment to make it easier for kids to make healthy food decisions. The Smarter Lunchrooms Movement offers simple, low-cost or free, evidenced-based strategies to improve the nutrition environment. A Smarter Lunchroom results in increased participation in school meals, increased selection and consumption of healthy foods, and decreased waste.
The Smarter Lunchrooms Movement provides an opportunity for these diverse organizations to come together around a common strategy. Through collaboration, organizations enjoy consistent messaging, mutually reinforcing activities, and increased sustainability, thereby leading to enhanced nutrition outcomes for schools. The organizations in Minnesota who have come together are the following:
- University of Minnesota Extension — Health and Nutrition, SNAP-Ed
- Minnesota Department of Education — Nutrition, Health, and Youth Development Division
- Minnesota Department of Health — Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP)
The organizations can rely on each other to bring their respective strengths to the table, whether it is access to the target audience, capacity, funding, networking, content expertise, evaluation, or something else.
Extension’s Health and Nutrition team has a strong track record of working in partnership with schools. We teach healthy eating habits to students and support school foodservice professionals in serving healthy, appealing foods. Now we are providing even more support by working with schools to improve their school nutrition environment through proven Smarter Lunchroom strategies.
Extension is a natural fit for helping to implement Smarter Lunchrooms strategies for three reasons.
- We are already in place. Health and Nutrition educators have partnered with schools all over Minnesota for many years.
- We are already doing the work. Extension’s current portfolio of health and nutrition work — including Nutrition Building Blocks for Great Trays® and Workshops for School Foodservice Professionals — supports improving school nutrition environments.
- We are already focused on the health of all Minnesotans. Health and Nutrition’s focus on improving healthy food access for Minnesotans to promote health using University resources and proven educational and engagement strategies matches the School Lunchroom Movement’s mission to equip school lunchrooms with evidence-based tools that improve child eating behaviors.
We are already focused on the health of all Minnesotans. Health and Nutrition’s focus on improving healthy food access for Minnesotans to promote health using University resources and proven educational and engagement strategies matches the School Lunchroom Movement’s mission to equip school lunchrooms with evidence-based tools that improve child eating behaviors.
Extension's Programmatic Response
University of Minnesota Extension SNAP-Ed educators will provide technical assistance and training to staff at SNAP-Ed eligible schools. To build capacity, Extension hosted a Smarter Lunchrooms technical assistance provider training in September 2016. At that time, 37 SNAP-Ed educators became Certified Smarter Lunchrooms Technical Assistance Providers.
By using a common strategy to achieve a shared goal, the state of Minnesota is expanding its reach, amplifying its impact, and transforming school nutrition environments. By joining forces, the Minnesota Smarter Lunchrooms Collaborative is poised to leverage additional funds and is on its way to becoming a Smarter Lunchrooms State of Excellence.
Following are the members of the Minnesota Smarter Lunchroom Collaborative:
- Kelly Kunkel, Extension Educator — Health and Nutrition
- Mary Schroeder, Extension Educator — Health and Nutrition
- Laura Perdue, Extension Educator — Health and Nutrition
- Nikki Johnson, Extension Educator — Health and Nutrition
- Gail Anderson, Nutrition, Health, and Youth Development Division — Minnesota Department of Education
- Terri Swartout, SHIP School Coordinator — Minnesota Department of Education
The Smarter Lunchrooms National Office is run out of The Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs and is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service and Food and Nutrition Service.
Nutrition Building Blocks for Great Trays® — Nutrition course for school foodservice professionals available online and as a curriculum to teach in a face-to-face setting.
Workshops for School Foodservice Professionals — Workshops on serving fruit and vegetables and lowering sodium in your cafeteria.