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Smarter Lunchrooms in Montana Schools

Create a Smarter Lunchroom by using easy no-cost and low-cost changes to encourage students to select, eat, and enjoy healthier foods in school.  Smarter Lunchrooms strategies can maintain or improve revenue and increase participation while decreasing food waste.  Montana schools are seeing positive results with Smarter Lunchrooms techniques.  These same techniques can be used in child care centers, restaurants, grocery stores, food banks, at home, at work- anywhere people make food choices. 

The Basics

The Smarter Lunchrooms Movement was created in 2009 at Cornell University. Smarter Lunchrooms uses the basic principles of behavioral economics (the influencing factors behind people’s choices and behaviors) to create an environment that makes the healthy choice the easy choice.   Montana schools are using these simple, low cost strategies successfully to help students make healthier choices and waste less food in school lunchrooms.  It really works!   

Smarter Lunchrooms emphasis:

  1. Low and no-cost solutions – fit readily within a school’s tight budget  
  2. Lunchroom environment focus –provides opportunity to nudge healthy eating as soon as students enter the lunchroom
  3. Promotion of healthful eating behaviors- a cool, new and positive approach to encourage healthy choices without students knowing it
  4. Team Approach – Involves students, food service, educators, parents, community partners to increase marketing of meals
  5. Sustainability- simple changes that are easy to maintain

The Smarter Lunchrooms National Handbook is the complete source of information for creating a Smarter Lunchroom. Check it out!


To make your lunchroom smarter, contact Montana Team Nutrition at 406.994.5641 or

Tools for Schools

Smarter Lunchrooms Success Stories from Montana High Schools

Smarter Lunchrooms Team Makeover (SNAP Ed/School Partnership) Training #1 webinar. Fall 2016

Smarter Lunchrooms Team Makeover (SNAP Ed/School Partnership) Training #2 webinar. Fall 2016
Simple Signage in Smarter Lunchrooms
Signage and Creative Naming Resource List

Make your School Lunchroom Smarter Video from Park High School, Livingston, Montana

Plate Waste Resources

Stepping into Montana’s Smarter Lunchrooms webinar series – five, 30 minute webinars with Smarter Lunchrooms “how to” tips

October 2015: "(Series 1 of 5) Montana's Smarter Lunchroom: Helping students eat better, choose healthier and waste less" Presented by: Katie Bark of Montana Team Nutrition

November 2015: "(Series 2 of 5) Discover the HealthierUS School Challenge: Smarter Lunchrooms Award" Presented by: Molly Stenberg of Montana Team Nutrition

November 2015: "(Series 3 of 5) Montana's Smarter Lunchrooms: Tips for a Fast, Friendly, and Satisfying Service Line" Presented by: Molly Stenberg of Montana Team Nutrition

February 2016: "(Series 4 of 5) Montana's Smarter Lunchrooms: Simple Signage in Smarter Lunchrooms" Presented by: Katie Bark of Montana Team Nutrition

March 2016: "(Series 5 of 5) Montana's Smarter Lunchrooms: Customer Service Best Practices" Presented by: Molly Stenberg of Montana Team Nutrition

Coming Soon: A Simple Guide for School Lunch Advisory Committees (SLACs) to Make Your Lunchroom Smarter.  A curriculum guide for schools to engage students in creating a smarter lunchroom in 4 easy steps.

Smarter Lunchrooms

Free, interactive, 2-hour Smarter Lunchrooms online training

Smarter Lunchrooms Self-Assessment Scorecard – 60 evidenced based strategies to nudge healthy choices

No Time to Train, 10 months of 10 minute lessons for school food service staff

See Smarter Lunchrooms in action in these 2 short videos. 
Lunch’d Part 1 video
Lunch’d Part 2 video

Michigan’s Smarter Lunchrooms Moves YouTube videos- 20 useful, one-minute video clips showing real schools using Smarter Lunchrooms

Healthy Food Choices in Schools 30-minute webinar series

Coming Soon: Photos of Montana Smarter Lunchrooms....



To make your lunchroom smarter, contact Montana Team Nutrition at 406.994.5641 or


Getting Started

Get started with these 5 easy steps:

  1. Review the 4 Steps to a Smarter Lunchrooms Makeover

  2. Review the “Tools for Schools” tab for ideas from Montana’s Smarter Lunchroom’s school champions and introduce your school food service staff to Smarter Lunchrooms.  Get them excited about it!

  3. Create a School Lunch Advisory Council (SLAC) to engage students and staff.  Their ideas and feedback are invaluable. 

  4. With your SLAC Team, measure how “smart” your school lunchroom is. Read the instructions on how to complete the Smarter Lunchrooms Self-Assessment Scorecard and use the Photo Checklist to gain a customer perspective. Ask school staff, students or parents to take the photos. Use the Scorecard Summary to summarize the results.

  5. Decide on 1 Smarter Lunchrooms change to make, create an action plan and timeline, make the change and evaluate results.   






To make your lunchroom smarter, contact Montana Team Nutrition at 406.994.5641 or

Classroom Connections

Smarter Lunchrooms provides opportunity to connect the cafeteria to the classroom in the following ways:

  1. Try these ready to use lesson plans with middle or high school students.
    Lunch Line Redesign Lesson – use this hands-on lesson to identify areas of opportunity for change in your school lunchroom. This workshop works with students and lunchroom staff. Lunch Line Redesign Game Pieces
    Name Game Lesson- use this hands on lesson to re-write school lunch menus to enhance taste expectations!

  2. If food sounds delicious, our brains expect it to taste delicious!  Creative names enhance taste expectations.  Ask classroom teachers and their students to create descriptive, appealing names for recipes and foods served on the school lunch menu. Check out this huge list of Descriptive Names!

  3. Ask business teachers, graphic design teachers and/or art classes to design original artwork or signage for the serving line, salad bar and around the lunchroom. 

  4. Partner with your Family Consumer Science teachers to test new recipes, offer samples of new recipes in the lunchroom or classrooms, and promote new or local food items.

  5. Interested in how behavioral economics affect food choice and behavior at home, at work, in restaurants and in grocery stores? 
    Check out these books by Brian Wansink- Mindless Eating and Slim by Design.
    Business classes, DECA clubs, and other student groups may be interested in social science and business marketing projects.  School stores, a la carte lines, and concession stands can use these techniques.

To make your lunchroom smarter, contact Montana Team Nutrition at 406.994.5641 or


Smarrter Lunchrooms Movement Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs