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Using Creativity and Technology To Promote Nutritious Meals in Kansas

Most of us have heard the phrase, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Camera phones, YouTube, and dozens of photo-related apps would seem to support this adage, and I happen to agree as well. That's why I combine nutrition expertise and technology to teach K – 12 students about nutrition and the new school meals.

Parents and students alike in Randolph, Kansas are impressed with the quality and quantity of the new meals. “They were won over when I showed that the food on the tray would overwhelm a standard dinner plate,” says Stormy Brandt, Food Service Manager at USD 384 Blue Valley, in Randolph, Kansas. 

To illustrate the school meals each day, I started creating a display meal on a tray. I set it out in the hall by the cafeteria where students could assess it and decide whether they wanted that day’s reimbursable lunch. Then a student with a camera and the district’s communications and IT folks got involved and before anyone could say “baked chicken,” photos of all standard lunch offerings were posted on the district’s website, along with the text menu!

Now, when parents and students check out the food service calendar, they can see the listings and what the lunch and breakfast trays will look like. That can be particularly helpful for younger kids who may remember that they like stromboli when they see it, even if they don’t exactly remember its name!

The photos also help generate discussion. Kids want to know what’s in the rice and why certain fruits are served with some meals and not others -- they are very interested in how we choose what to serve, and it gives us a chance to talk about nutrition in a positive way.

Soon, I'll upgrade my technology again, and start sending out surveys of current and proposed lunch menus to the students’ computers via chat software. I'll use the results to tweak current menus and develop new items based on the student’s preferences—balanced with good nutrition, of course.

And it seems as if this policy of openness with students and parents has paid off. When I started to get a few questions about the new meals last fall, I invited all inquirers to visit for lunch and check out the meals for themselves.

​See other blog posts in this series: