Regional Multiplier Event in Brabant, The Netherlands

On Friday 8 April 2016, some 50 persons participated in a ToL Regional Multiplier Event at VET KWIC at s-Hertogenbosch in Brabant, The Netherlands.

Some 35 teachers, managers and canteen staff from 18 different VET schools from all over NL were present, as well as 14 persons from 6 different caterers (caterer Hutten also representing regional suppliers).

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First, the audience checked the canteen at KWIC how they presented their food and beverages and after that, they discussed about healthy food while standing in a line representing keen on healthy food (10) or not at all involved (0). As you can imagine, most of the participants gathered around 6-8 in the line.

After this, the participant listened to two presentations. One about vision, ethics and your own opinion on healthy school canteens and the other about how to influence people to buy healthy food and beverages in canteens.

After this, they all enjoyed a healthy and green lunch at the school restaurant, entirely run by students themselves. Students explained why they served a healthy meal.

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The afternoon was reserved for the caterers. In workshops, all the participants could discuss about how to set up a healthy and green school canteen and the do’s and the don’ts. A short evaluation ended the day.

Here, you can read about the tricks and tips that came up during the whole day:

  • For students that did not had a breakfast, KWIC offers a breakfast deal, cheap and healthy.
  • Put lamps on the food/beverages you want to highlight and students are thereby attracted (more than 186%)
  • Start the route with the healthy stuff first such as fruits etc.
  • Make the unhealthy stuff scanty and let the students ask for it.
  • Smilies or the traffic light system works!
  • Put the good stuff at eye level, for the bad stuff students have to search, to reach or to bend.
  • Reward the good stuff by making it cheaper.
  • Snacks only after 11.30 o clock. Before that time only a healthy breakfast can be served.
  • Smoothies are tasty, popular and healthy.
  • Everywhere free water from the tap instead of soft drinks.
  • Investigate why people in Sardinia and Japan live so long. It appears that fish, olive oil and especially a meaningful social environment for the elderly are important.
  • WWMDD: What Would Mc Donalds Do? Do not hesitate to learn from the successful commercial companies. The Happy Meal (in your case with healthy stuff) is a cash cow.
  • Giving children presents and gadgets works. Mc Donalds staff always asks: “… do you want fries with it?” So, you also can ask your students explicitly: “… do you want … with it?”
  • In the introduction program for new students at KWIC, the first two days only fast food is served. The students get so sick and tired of it that after this devilish intro they only want to eat healthy the rest of their school career. They also feel better and more concentrated.
  • Important when promoting healthy stuff are balance, moderation, variety and the social function.
  • At KWIC introduction program students cook for each other and never a new student sits alone during lunch.
  • In NL there is an app where you can test your lifestyle.
  • Discourage instead of forbid. Like every adolescent in the world students will do just the opposite when you forbid snacks etc.
  • Middle-up/down policy: from teachers, canteen staff up to school management and down to students & parents.
  • When you can change/adapt the environment and/or make it more fun, instead of making more rules and regulations, people will change their behavior.
  • Nice example is the stairway next to the escalator in a metro station. When the stairway was made into piano keys that could make music, the use rises with 66% (film on YouTube available).
  • The scent of cleaning stuff makes people polish more.
  • The sight of books or a library makes people more silent.
  • People very strongly want to conform to each other.
  • The smaller the portion or plate the less you eat. The bigger the portion/plate the more you eat.
  • Seducing is better than forbidding. For example fruit in a nice bowl raises sales with 103%.
  • Success factors at Burgers Zoo NL: create shortage = as long as available, gadgets, tip of the chef, walking route via the right (so not via the left), healthy stuff first, healthy stuff under the spotlights (186% more buying!!) specialties, not healthy not easy to reach.
  • Keep on trying for a few weeks. People are used to their habits and are not ready to change easily.
  • Let students participate and think and discuss with you.
  • Make the school canteen a nice place where the student likes to come and like to stay. It is a
  • place to experience and to taste (like the ideas of James Olivier). The average student still wants to have a quick bite and to leave school during the brake as quick as possible.
  • Don’t mention healthy in your communication to students.
  • Dutch caterer Hutten has 40 regular suppliers, growers and farmers. It is not easy but worthwhile. (We from TOL still have to find out why).
  • Hutten also has actions around the wasting food problem.
  • The role of the caterer will change in the near future from food/drinks supplier to life style coach with a coaching and teaching program. Vitality for students and teaching staff will be key. So, from contract to advice and awareness.
  • Let students participate!! Let them think with you and let them interview each other about their choices and behavior. So, not too much supply-driven, but more demand-driven.
  • Start to develop a good taste. Then the rest will follow.
  • A step-by-step plan for change:
  1. Make a school canteen team (all stakeholders, including students).
  2. State of the art/present situation.
  3. Goals/ambitions.
  4. Promotion/actions/communication.
  5. Securing the policy.
  6. Evaluation.
  • Important influencers are canteen staff and initiators (early adapters) within the school organization.

Text: Peter van der Baan, Photos: Prem Jaddoe, April 2016