NATIONAL HARBOR, MD – A new national survey of school meal program operators reveals that more school cafeterias are utilizing strategies to increase consumption of fruits, vegetables and other healthy choices, while expanding student access to school meals through programs such as the Community Eligibility Provision. The findings are part of School Nutrition Association (SNA)’s School Nutrition Operations Report: The State of School Nutrition 2016, based on survey responses from nearly 1,000 school nutrition directors nationwide.

“Just like parents, school nutrition professionals know that offering kids healthier options is only half the battle – we also have to entice them to eat those nutritious choices,” said SNA President Becky Domokos-Bays, PhD, RD, SNS. “Despite tight meal program budgets, school nutrition professionals are employing creative tactics to promote healthy menu options as they welcome students back to the school cafeteria.”

The survey found that since 2014, when the majority of updated nutrition standards for school meals were in effect, more school meal programs have launched initiatives to market healthier school food choices and increase their appeal among students.

  • Nearly 50% of responding districts have implemented Farm to School initiatives (up from 37.5% in the 2014 survey)
  • 72.3% employ student taste tests/sampling (up from 64.4%)
  • 18.4% have chef partnerships/recipe development (up from 12.3%)
  • The survey also revealed these initiatives are being considered or planned in 15 to 24% of additional districts.