To Get Kids to Eat Healthy, Get Them Into the Cafeteria

Fresh Picks Café Bringing Action Stations To Over 50 New Hampshire and Vermont School Districts, Starting October 2014

healthy-cafe-1.jpgHelping school kids eat healthy by serving meals and snacks with all the essential nutrients is a priority at Fresh Picks Café—not to mention a requirement of participating in the National School Lunch Program.

But it only works if kids eat in the cafeteria. This can be a challenge at high schools and middle schools where kids have the flexibility to leave school at lunch.

healthy-cafe-2.jpgTo draw kids to the school cafeteria, Fresh Picks Café is stirring up lunchtime excitement by bringing exhibition-cooking events, called Action Stations, to over 50 school districts in New Hampshire and Vermont, starting this October.

Action Stations feature Café Services chefs preparing fresh, made-to-order meals out in the open with ingredients that are handpicked by students. The chef starts with a staple, such as pasta or a stir-fry dish; and then offers kids a selection of ingredients to mix in.

With pasta, choices include different sauces, meats and fresh vegetables. Fresh Picks Café serves whole wheat pasta, because it’s more nutritious than the white variety.

Successful Pilot Boosts Cafeteria Participation Over 30%

The Middlebury, Vermont school district has been piloting Action Stations for about a year at Middlebury High School, where they have increased cafeteria participation by 30% to 40%.

healthy-cafe-3.jpgIn spring, an Action Station often offers a choice of fresh greens grown by students in the school greenhouse. Laurie Bruce, Middlebury School Food Service Director for Fresh Picks Café, says the availability of locally grown produce from the greenhouse or nearby farms is appealing to kids, who are motivated to support their communities by eating green whenever they can.

“When kids feel they’re involved and have a choice, they’re more likely to choose what’s best for them,” she says.

How are Action Stations helping kids make healthier food choices?

“They’re bringing kids back to the cafeteria, where Fresh Picks Café meals are prepared with the right proportion of ingredients from the five recommended food groups,” says Chris Cantlin, Fresh Picks Café District Manager. “No matter what they choose to put on their pasta, it’s a whole lot better than what they’d eat at a fast food restaurant.”