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  • Writer's pictureNatalya Murakhver

How to Implement (and maintain) the Alternative Menu

Thank you to all who could be on our Alternative Menu Best Practices call today! Thanks to Stacey B Ornstein for taking notes and to Wellness in the Schools Founder Nancy Easton for making time to join us!


NYC Healthy Food Alliance conference call


Notes by Stacey Ornstein (sorry, was going quick and tried to organize as everyone spoke)

Messaging is important!

Be positive. All parents want what is best for their children.

Get parents on board, speak with the PTA

(Eventually) Bring up at PTA mtg as “opportunity” to change food menu

How to: Hand out Standard and Alt Menu with titles blinded out (blind vote) and ask parents to pick a menu they prefer their students eat.

Give parents tastings (at all school or parent events)

Form a Wellness Council (or join one) get a team together to help

Check to see if your school has one here.

Get principal on board

Meet with/ get Food Service Manager (Office of School Food Nutirtion Manager) on board. Find yours here.

Be an ally, it’s not a fight

Get a salad bar

Work with staff to vary it

Ensure: 2 different lettuces, minimum 3 vegetables, homemade salad dressings, etc

Get programs in the schools that promote healthy cooking and eating (some free/some $)

  • Allergic to Salad

  • Beecher Foundation

  • Brighter Bites

  • Bubble Foundation (I think they’ve now combined with Edible Schoolyard)

  • Coalition for Healthy School Food

  • CookShop

  • Garden to Cafe program

  • Spoons Across America

  • WITS

Get parents to help promote:

Tastings of new items (while kids are waiting in line) (WITS can do day before)

Connect/ask Food Service Manager. Approach as concerned about participation, we’d love to help promote, any particular items we can help promote through tastings we (parents) can hand out.

Give stickers to kids that are ‘super eaters’/’adventurous eaters’ and try it

Send home recipes asking parents to talk about menu items, make it a game (see if child can pick 2 or 3 new items to try)

Jenny U. (parent at co-located Neighborhood School): Backpacking home recipes encourage parents to talk to kids about the menu options.

See Veggie Tacos and Veggie Chilli recipes linked here.

Generally increase interest/participation in better health

Monthly fruit/vegetable tastings (parent-led), get foods donated


Nancy Easton (Wellness in the Schools): SchoolFood in general is looking to combine menus (scratch cook (Alternative) with standard). Big city, can take years, but this is why there is a lot of overlap now and will continue.

Tastings are very powerful (get parents, school aids, administration, etc to do)

Cafeteria has tasting cups

Kitchen likes tastings ultimately increases participation

Ask the School Food Manager to help set up tastings (concerned about participation, we’d love to help promote, any particular items to promote)

Cooking classes promoting healthy eating

Best way to ask for alternative menu

  • First place to go is your wellness council/committee on the PTA

  • Shared space schools have to all make the decision together

  • Have meeting with your school food manager and request it

  • Helpful to have the principal in favor of it

  • Stress how you will help promote it so that you can keep participation up (by doing tastings, sending home backpack flyers, and messaging families)

  • Make sure you have a salad bar, that’s a good first step

If you have questions please email me through the website or at


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