Healthy, Sustainable School Food Initiatives

More than 30 million children in the U.S. eat a school lunch five days a week, 180 days a year. Sadly, many of these school lunches are filled with poor quality, highly processed foods that contribute to childhood obesity, diabetes, reduced attention spans and poor grades (not to mention an enormous amount of waste from packaging).  Most students have little to no idea where their food comes from, how it is grown and harvested, how it is processed, and the impact on the environment of its production, processing and transport. Learn about healthy, sustainable food initiatives that can be implemented at your school to bring in fresh, local food; provide healthy meals in school cafeterias; improve student nutrition; offer curricular connections on food and nutrition; and connect schools to their local communities and farms.

Tip: Also visit our National & State Green School Programs page to learn more about local and national Green School programs and resources to help you improve the health & sustainability of your school!

Before You Start

Form an Action Team

USDA Toolkit: Build a Farm-to-School Team

Eco Schools: Top Ten Tips for School Food Sustainability

Design and Preparation

Conduct a Sustainable Food Audit

Check Out Some Model Urban Programs:

  • Lunchroom Collective: Greater Washington DC Area
  • The Food Trust Healthy School Toolkit
  • The Food Trust Approach to Nutrition Education
  • Great Kids Farm
  • Implementation

    Develop a Sustainable Food Action Plan

    Healthy Sustainable Food Initiatives:

  • Become a Team Nutrition School:

  • Learn About & Enhance Your School Wellness Policy:

  • Start a Healthy School Lunch Campaign
  • Host a Food Day Event!
  • Find Cool Food & Nutrition Activities & Programs Happening in Schools!
  • Become a Recipe for Success Affiliate Partner
  • Cook Up Change! National competition to create a healthy school meal
  • Participate in the Farm to Cafeteria Conference
  • Become a Seed Change Partner to Create a Farm-To-School Program
  • Use K-12 Compliant Recipes, Menus, Training & Promotion Toolkit
  • Start a Fuel Up to Play 60 Program
  • Check Out Real Food for Real Kids Programs & Chapters
  • Join/Start an Alliance for Healthy Schools Program (Search by State)
  • Get Involved with Your Local Food Policy Council (State Directory)
  • Become a Farm to School Network Partner or Member
  • Also See: Procuring Healthy, Sustainable Food for Schools
  • Also See: Edible School Gardens
  • Also See: Recycling & Waste Reduction Projects
  • Using Your Project

    In Defense of Food Curriculum (ages 10+)

    Johns Hopkins FoodSpan: Standards Aligned High School Curriculum

    EPA Lesson Plans, Teacher Guides & Online Resources for Educators

    Eco Schools Sustainability Pathways & Resources

    Eco Schools National Standards & Curriculum Alignment

    Green Education Foundation: Sustainability Lesson Clearinghouse

    Learning Lab Sustainability Lessons

    Project Learning Tree Curriculum Offerings

    Sharing Your Project

    Team Nutrition Popular Events Idea Notebook

    Engage EVERYONE with the “The School Day Just Got Healthier” Toolkit!

    Involve Parents & Others Enhancing & Implementing a School Wellness Policy

    Nutrition Education & Promotion Materials

    Forward Food Posters, Postcards & More

    Golden Carrot Award: Food Service Healthy School Lunch Improvement

    Create Signs About Healthy Food Tips & Efforts

    Resource Center

    Project Resource Library: Learn More!
    National & State Green Schools Programs
    Eco Schools USA Handbook
    Bay Backpack Teaching Resources Search Engine
    Where Your Food Comes From: Farm-Based Education Network Resources
    Farm to School Network Resources Search Engine
    EPA Learning & Teaching About the Environment (awards, resources, more)