With the passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (2010), school lunches are more nutritious than ever before.1 USDA and National School Lunch Program (NSLP) lunches now limit sodium sugar, fat, and calorie levels while promoting more fruits and vegetables.2 Sadly, many parents and other community members do not know about the healthy makeover that school lunches have gotten and hesitate to have children eat them. However, by using media channels such as radio, newspapers, and social media, you can inform your community of the benefits of school lunch. Use these tips to determine which media channels will help you share your messages most effectively:
Research has shown that the radio is one of the primary health information resources for people who are not health-oriented.2 Conduct a series of radio interviews or commercials about the many benefits of school lunches. Talk about how inexpensive and nutritious school meals are as well as the positive effects of healthy eating on students’ academic achievements, behavior, and overall wellness.
Printed articles or advertisements in a newspaper are a good way to reach adults who are seeking information on health.2 Printed information can easily be accessed in the future or left out for children to read. If you choose to use a newspaper, you should focus primarily on the nutritional benefits of school lunch. Contact your local newspaper and ask for the staff writer in charge of the educational beat or local news column, or for the editor in charge of editorials.
Sites such as Facebook and Twitter are easy, free, effective way to share information with health-conscious adults and students within your school community.2 If your school district already has a Facebook page or Twitter account, you can ask them to share information you provide; on the other hand, if you’d rather have greater control over content or wish to post more frequently, create your own accounts. Distributed information can be in almost any form, including articles, videos, or pictures that promote school lunch and healthy tips. Encourage students, parents, and other stakeholders to “tune in” to your pages and tweets by using other in-house school media forums (announcements, auto-call systems, school newsletters and flyers, and school and district websites) as well as by promoting them at parent-focused school events (Back-to-School Night, parent conference days, etc.). Lastly, encourage students, health professionals within the school and wider community, and other interested stakeholders to get involved by submitting content or helping maintain and/or monitor the sites; they will draw additional followers to the account, share the work, and spread your message more widely.
For advice on attracting stakeholder and for advice in starting a SNAC (student nutrition action committee), check out: Become Involved in Healthy Lunchroom Initiatives by Running a Student Nutrition Action Committee and smarterlunchrooms.org.
Tisa Hill and Julie Apuzzo, Cornell University Division of Nutritional Sciences