Go, Slow, Whoa!
State Awards Meriden Public Schools $50,000 Grant to Implement School Nutrition Rating System
Meriden Public Schools was awarded a $50,000 grant from the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) to develop and implement a new school nutrition rating system pilot program. Meriden is one of only three districts in the state to receive this award. The state hopes that the pilot's success will create a model for schools across the state to use to encourage a healthier eating lifestyle for students.
Meriden Public Schools Food and Nutrition Services Program is always looking for creative ways to enhance nutrition education and promote healthier eating for our students and is honored to receive this grant. We believe our program will be a success and serve as a model for other food service programs in Connecticut.
With the award, Meriden has created the stoplight program, a nutritional rating system that allows students to easily identify healthy foods and make better nutritional choices. Foods are labeled green, yellow, or red and each color has a different meaning. Green foods are a "go", meaning you can eat more, yellow signifies "slow", meaning eat only occasionally, and red is for "whoa", meaning these food should be eaten rarely. The color-coded system simplifies awareness of healthier meal options, especially for elementary and middle school students. The food service department will give each food a color based on ten nutritional characteristics such as, percent of calories from fat and percent of sugars by weight.
Soon, parents will be able to view color coded menus online and help guide their children to make better choices. The grant will also fund a web based tool for input of nutritional information of food from home to find out its stoplight rating. The program will be piloted in Benjamin Franklin, Hanover, and Thomas Hooker Elementary Schools; Washington Middle School; and Platt High School. If the pilot program proves to be successful, the program may be expanded to all schools in the district.
Similar food rating systems are currently used in grocery stores and college dining halls. At least one study has found that the systems have caused an increase in purchases of healthier food options. The food service department will track purchases made over a several month period after the program starts to determine if the rating system works to change students food choices from "slow" and "whoa" foods to more "go" foods.