Non-Food Rewards

How are students rewarded at your school? Celebrating success with a pizza party or handing out candy for good behavior undermines healthy eating messages and creates 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.

Step 1: Know Your Wellness Policy

Having a strong local wellness policy is a first step to implement healthy fundraising 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 the Alliance’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 their unhealthy rewards if you make sure to offer plenty of fun alternatives. Be a healthy role model: Consider sticking with non-food rewards and prizes for staff, too.

Step 3: Engage Kids

How do they 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 our Sample Student Non-Food Rewards Survey.  

Step 4: Use Clear Communication

Make sure to communicate your non-food reward policy to everyone who might be affected by it – 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 healthy rewards using the following tools:

  • Student/staff/parent handbooks
  • Intercom or email announcements
  • Parent newsletters
  • Staff memos
  • Student newspaper
  • School websites or social media accounts (Use our Non-food Rewards Sample Social Media Posts)
  • Staff or student orientation or open house nights

Use the Alliance’s Sample Non-Food Reward Letter for Substitutes 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 our Training Center:

Talk with Our Expert

Jill Turley is one of our National Nutrition Advisors. By contacting her, you can ask questions, learn best practices and get started creating a healthier school environment.

Get to know Jill | Connect with Jill | @rdjill


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