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  • Andrea Strong

What Makes a Great Lunch Period? Peace and Quiet, and Stickers!

Promising School Lunch Practices: From Tisch Center on Food, Nutrition and Policy


The Tisch Center on Food Nutrition and Policy recently evaluated school lunches and came up with these observations. Check them out and share them with your school Wellness Councils and Principals!




Quiet Time: Using the quiet/eating time to encourage students to eat the school lunch components. Some schools enforce quiet after all students have food stating, “This is eating time, not talking time. Everyone should be eating their lunch.” One school also used this time to identify and compliment students who were eating the vegetable.


Drink Water: Drinking water as part of school lunch. Schools that made water more accessible by having cups of water ready for students, serving water to students after they were seated, or having a designated time for calling students by table (or class) to get water seemed to increase students taking and drinking water. Any school that wants one can get a Water Jet from the Office of School Food! Just ask your School Food Manager or email VTammaro@schools.nyc.gov


Involve the Kids: Involving students in the school lunch experience. A few schools involve students in the lunch experience as salad bar attendants encouraging students to take salad and serving students salad. They also served as table attendants helping with clean up and recycling which allowed them to stand up and walk around the cafeteria while other students had to remain seated.


Stagger classes coming into the cafeteria: Students that enter the cafeteria and go through the line first before sitting down seemed to have a quieter, smoother lunch experience and more students seemed to take and eat school lunch. When students enter, sit without food and then stand back up to go through the lunch line the cafeteria seemed louder and some students would eat their snacks and decide not to get school lunch.


Stickers and Rewards: Distributing stickers to communicate and reward healthy choices. Students willingness to try new foods increases when stickers are offered.


Tastings: Serving bite size tastings of foods that will be served as part of school lunch. Students were willing to try a sample of a unfamiliar lunch entrée when they had them first during a tasting and could try a small amount. Tastings appeared to be a good way to introduce new foods, instead of students selecting a new entrée as their lunch the first time it appears on the menu. Students also responded favorably to tasting vegetables grown in a school garden, trying composed salads served at the table, and or presented in a fun way like spiral carrots.

Model good behavior: Adults modeling school lunch, especially salad bar, consumption. We observed adults modeling salad bar consumption in 4 ways that may have influenced student salad bar consumption: 1) adults served salad bar components to students as they came through the lunch line; 2) adults bringing salad to students after they were seated and eating lunch; 3) students seeing teachers and administrators taking vegetables from the salad bar as part of their lunch 4) administrators or teachers staying in the cafeteria and eating salad for lunch with students.


Resting: Resting at the end of a lunch period. A few schools would have students calm down at the end of the lunch period by being quiet and laying their heads down before they return to class. If schools played music during lunch they would lower the volume towards the end or lunch and or play a slower tune. Teachers seemed to have an easier transition for leaving the cafeteria after lunch to return to their classroom.

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