Non-Food Rewards

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: 


Step 5: Ask for Help 

You don’t have to re-invent the wheel. Share our Healthy Ways to Reward Kids resource with others, find support in the Healthier Generation Action Center, and connect with a National Advisor.

Need support? Visit our Get Help page, call (888) 543-4584 or e-mail