Big changes are underway for school lunch. As of July 1, 2012, the USDA calls for more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to be served at schools while limiting things like sodium and calories. Thanks in part to this focus on nutrition and First Lady Michelle Obama's initiatives, The Build-a-Tray™ Program has sparked an interest in schools and is in 12 states - and growing!
The Build-a-Tray™ Program is a fun and interactive "eat right" program that teaches kids how to build a balanced meal. As students move down the serving line, they are encouraged to match lunch items by food group to the right spots on their tray. The lunch tray becomes a "game board" where shapes and numbers are embossed on the tray for teaching proper nutrition. The program increases the consumption of fruits and vegetables.
The Build-a-Tray™ Program is a product of The Artworks Shop, a "sign shop with design flair" based out of Massachusetts. The Artworks Shop specializes in café design for school foodservice. This program is an off-shoot of the popular Build-a-Tray Café and provides a tool for foodservice staff to extend nutrition education from the classroom to the cafeteria. The Artworks Shop helps hundreds of schools turn their serving lines into fun and interactive cafes infused with health and wellness messages.
Stonington, CT Implements The Build-a-Tray™ Program, Awarded by USDA as "HealthierUS" School
Tim Paquette is Director of School Nutrition Services in Stonington, CT. Mr. Paquette worked with The Artworks Shop to bring The Build-a-Tray™ Program to his elementary schools in 2011. Mr. Paquette enlisted the help of Paula Henn, a nutrition services intern passionate about working with kids, to introduce the program to his schools and the community.
In addition to The Build-a-Tray™ Program, Mr. Paquette works with other departments to run cooking demonstrations, a fruit and water program, and movement breaks. He also writes a school nutrition blog.
Thanks to these efforts, the elementary schools in Stonington have been recognized by the USDA as "HealthierUS Schools" and have received the grant money for their commitment to health and wellness. The HealthierUS School Challenge recognizes schools participating in the National School Lunch Program. Mr. Paquette was able to count The Build-a-Tray™ Program towards nutrition education requirements when entering the HealthierUS Challenge for the Stonington, CT school district.
The Build a Tray Business Pitch
What was the market problem or opportunity you saw not being addressed?
Cafeteria design is often lacking in schools, usually because of time and budget. This is a fun and affordable way to deinstitutionalize serving lines and to promote health and wellness. Colorful and attractive signage increases participation in school lunch.
Thanks to a growing interest in nutrition education, a change in school meal regulations, MyPlate.gov, Offer vs. Serve, and various challenges like the HealthierUS Challenge, The Build-a-Tray™ Program is a real hit with schools and the community.
How did you arrive at your idea?
The Artworks Shop specializes in café design for school foodservice. It's a nich market bursting with opportunity. By being smart and looking good - providing compelling, engaging and attractive environmental design - The Artworks Shop helps school food service providers develop a more profitable and healthier food court program. The Build-a-Tray™ Program complements nutrition education initiatives and helps school foodservice innovate and spread nutrition awareness.
How do you make money / business model?
The Build-a-Tray™ Café is sold in two package sizes or a la carte based on the size of the school's cafeteria. For example, a Café Sign is hung above the door to welcome students into the café and "Danglers" are hung over the serving lines to reinforce each food group (fruit, veggie, protein, whole grains, & milk) to call out the elements of a balanced meal and to guide children as they pass through the serving line. Schools can purchase foam trays specific to the program through their paper provider, or can use existing trays. Build-a-Tray™ signage promotes the program. The program itself is $500 for each school with special for multiple schools or districts.
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