"Dear Family, please come to lunch at my school to try one of the recipes we made in our classroom, and now they are making it in our lunchroom!"
Integrated Nutrition Education Program
The Integrated Nutrition Education Program (INEP) is a creative and fun way for kids to learn about healthy eating in their classroom. They share what they learn with their families. Most lessons include hands on cooking activities. These activities teach students how to prepare and taste new fruits and vegetables. INEP is conducted through partnerships with the University of Colorado, School of Public Health; and Colorado school districts; and schools from around the state. INEP is currently working with almost 11,000 students and their families.
Mesa County District 51 School Food Service (SFS) and INEP have been working together since 2009. Students and their families are encouraged to make healthy nutrition and lifestyle choices. INEP and Mesa SFS have worked together for the past 3 years to hold “INEP at Lunch” parent events. Last year Pear Park Elementary selected INEP’s Chinese Vegetable Salad to serve to students and over 50 parents who attended the event that day. The students helped plan, promote, and work the event. The year before, the event successfully featured INEP’s Chicken Salad Wrap which was officially adopted onto the Mesa SFS menu!
This year Clifton Elementary held a creative naming contest for “green beans.” Students were asked to vote for their favorite creative name:
- Ninja Turtle Fries
- Groovy Green Beans
- Hulk Smash Fingers
Ninja Turtle Fries won! Using creative names and involving students in the process is an evidence based best practice for “Smarter Lunchrooms.” “Smarter Lunchrooms” help students choose more fruits and vegetables by changing the layout and marketing of foods. INEP will provide signage for the lunch line. SFS staff will display the signs every time Ninja Turtle Fries are served. INEP and Mesa SFS will evaluate if consumption of green beans increases over the remainder of the year. And the best news of all, the SFS Director for Mesa D51 loved the new name and has said he will be using it on next year’s district menu. Now that’s a win win for everyone!
Increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables is a challenge for students and their families. INEP partners with school wellness teams, school food service and community partners to promote and support Policy, Systems, and Environmental changes. These changes can provide students and their families with tools and resources to help make healthier choices.
Systems and environmental changes have had beneficial outcomes:
- Adoption of new recipes by SFS
- Ability to focus on increasing fruit and vegetable consumption
- Sharing information with the parents and students
- Highlighting for parents the many healthy school lunch options available to their children
“Gave my child a chance to eat something new and different.”
- Pear Park Parent
SNAP-Ed Evaluation Framework
The program is using SNAP-Ed Evaluation Framework indicator MT5 Nutrition Supports Adopted. This is a group-based intervention strategy aimed at system and/or environment level change. Mesa SFS adopted INEP recipes into district wide menu.
This post was submitted by Colorado SNAP-Ed; Integrated Nutrition Education Program, Rocky Mountain Prevention Research Center. For more information contact Julie Atwood or visit our website at www.TheNutritionProgram.org