Lunch Service

"Mood Boost" Lunch Program Teaches Kids How Food Impacts Mood

It’s stressful being a kid today — from juggling homework and extracurricular activities to parent expectations, social pressures and more. Research shows childhood anxiety has increased within the last decade according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Gen Z is more likely to report their mental health as fair or poor compared to other generations.

One way students can improve their mental health is through healthier food options. Chartwells K12, the largest K-12 foodservice provider, recently launched their “Mood Boost” program to help elementary and middle school students learn how the food they eat may impact their mood. Designed by dietitians and chefs, the seven-week program features on-trend menu items like breakfast bowls, smoothies, grain bowls that incorporate “mood-boosting” ingredients.

“One thing that makes Mood Boost so successful is that we host a kick-off during the first week of the program,” Chartwells K12 CEO Belinda Oakley explained. “This gives students the opportunity to learn about the six different moods and meet our ‘Moodie’ characters — Calm, Alert, Smart, Happy, Confident, and Strong, while tasting recipes that feature ingredients connected to each mood.  Then, at least one mood will be highlighted during each of the consecutive six weeks when our cafeteria menus include new mood-boosting recipes.”

Mood Boost transforms the cafeteria space with fun, vibrant graphics and signage to introduce the Moodies, which also have their own collectible trading cards that students get to take home. Each card features a recipe that kids and families can make together. For example, Raspberries with Chocolate and Basil (Alert); Strawberry Avocado Smoothie (Confident); and Portuguese Style Pork Bowl (Strong).

In addition, Chartwells K12’s team of Registered Dietitians “work closely with students, parents and school nurses to create delicious and safe menus for students with food allergies and other dietary restrictions,” Oakley said. Parents and students can also view all of their menu items on the Nutrislice App and find the nutrition facts, ingredients and allergen information.

Overall, Mood Boost is another way to talk to students about healthy eating, Oakley pointed out. “Our hope is that they really understand how eating healthy foods can make them feel better every day. Over time, we think that it has tremendous power to play a role in creating a happier, more confident, stronger, calmer, smarter, and alert generation.”

About the Author

Yvonne Marquez is senior editor of Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected].