Incentives, Substituting Nutritious Food are Key to Getting Chicago-Area Students to Eat Better at School

Helping children make better food choices in the school environment

In 2005, Action for Healthy Kids used a working group comprised of educators, food service personnel, health advocates and others to:

  • Develop, implement and assess a technical assistance model to assist 12 diverse Chicago-area schools improve students' food choices through various strategies.
  • Advise the schools on how to establish school health advisory councils as a mechanism to help sustain healthy behaviors. The councils provide a school or school district with an ongoing infrastructure to address school health and wellness issues. Councils may include as members school principals, health educators, parents, food service personnel and students.

Key Results

  • Most of the strategies tested appeared to help make students aware of the new, more nutritious food offerings; however, getting students to switch to those offerings did not come as easily.

  • Salad bars appeared to be very popular, with a sizable percentage of students choosing salad as their meal (25% at one school and 30 to 35% at another).

  • Offering healthy breakfasts also appeared to be popular among students, particularly when combined with some "perk" such as a "breakfast and a movie" or the opportunity to eat with their parents.