Amherst Middle School has upgraded both their school nutrition and technology with the installation of three new televisions in the cafeteria.
The three flat-screen televisions installed last month serve as information centers for the cafeteria, and soon the entire school.
SAU 39 Food Service Director Danielle Collins said the digital signs are used to display the cafeteria menu, as well as promote nutritious choices.
According to research from food expert Brian Wansink, students are 40 percent more likely to choose a fruit or vegetable if they are presented in a visually appealing way.
Collins said that the televisions will showcase their healthier options and engage the students through facts and trivia. Art students will even take pictures of the food options, which will be shown throughout the day.
The decision to use the digital signage was influenced by new guidelines from the The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act 2010, a federal statute that sets new nutritional standards for schools. Schools will be required to promote wellness and include more vegetables in their menu, and show students these choices.
If the school fails to meet the new guidelines, it can be held fiscally responsible.
Collins said that they decided to use $10,000 of the $50,000 surplus in the school nutrition fund, which can only be used on its own programs, toward a more effective means of delivering healthy messages to the students.
She added that this is a better alternative than using the new required paper posters that promote healthy habits, which can cost up to $200. This is not a typical price, but the school has to replace all of the now out-of-date food pyramid posters with the new my plate icon, and they are in high demand and are only available in a few places.
The screens will also be used to give students additional school information, such as new library books and sports coverage. Collins is also planning to put together contests through the televisions to keep students even more engaged in their meals.