How are students rewarded at your school? Celebrating success with a pizza party or handing out candy for good behavior may be tempting, but it can undermine healthy eating messages and lead to unhealthy eating habits that can continue into adulthood.
We should never use food, healthy or unhealthy, to reward kids for accomplishments or good behavior and we should never withhold food as punishment. Keep reading for creative ways to reward kids that don’t use food or beverages.
5 Steps to Implement Non-Food Rewards
Step 1: Know Your Wellness Policy
A strong local wellness policy is an important tool for implementing non-food rewards in your school or district.
What does your local wellness policy say about rewards and incentives? Does your school encourage or require the use of non-food rewards?
If you need to update your local wellness policy, check out Healthier Generation’s Model Wellness Policy template, which was approved by the USDA, to make non-food rewards the standard for students in your district.
Step 2: Provide Alternatives
Your students and staff will never miss food rewards if you make sure to offer plenty of fun alternatives. Be a healthy role model and consider sticking with non-food rewards and prizes for staff, too.
Step 3: Engage Kids
How do your students want to be rewarded? Conduct a survey to find out! Use our Focus Group How-To Guide to generate a list of non-food rewards or activities they would like offered as incentives or conduct a survey using the Sample Student Survey: Non-Food Rewards as a guide.
Step 4: Use Clear Communication
Be sure to communicate your non-food reward policy to everyone – including staff, students, and parents. Announce the new policy when it’s adopted and send reminders during the school year that the change is coming.
Think about the times we acknowledge students during the school year such as during student of the month ceremonies, at the end of quarters, after competitions and more. Remind staff, students, and families that all incentives and rewards should center around non-food items or activities.
Spread the word about non-food rewards using the following tools:
Intercom or email announcements
School websites or social media accounts (use our Sample Social Media Posts: Non-Food Rewards as a guide)
Staff or student orientation or open house nights
Use our Sample Letter for Substitutes: Non-Food Rewards to let substitute teachers know about your policy
Step 5: Ask for Help
You don’t have to re-invent the wheel. Use the resources and support available to you through the Healthy Schools Program.
Check out the following resources in the Training Center:
On-demand training, A Candy Here, A Candy There: Proposing Alternatives to Foods as Rewards
Online curriculum, Celebrations, Rewards, and Fundraisers, OH MY!
Engage with our National Nutrition Advisors and learn from other schools around the country.