Why we’re reimagining school cafeterias: A student’s experience in the lunchroom can dramatically impact their readiness to learn. Many schools operate on tight schedules, with lunchtime shoehorned between math and recess, and students may only have a few minutes to eat. And many schools don’t have the resources to focus on creating a welcoming, inclusive space for shared meals. 

We set out to hear directly from students, school food staff, teachers, and administrators on how we might help reimagine the school cafeteria experience together. We’re designing ways for schools to make changes in the cafeteria that create a more joyful, inclusive place that shows kids they’re valued.


Reimagining School Cafeterias report coverFoodCorps, in partnership with (tbd) collective, conducted in-person interviews with more than 300 students and 100 adults who regularly spend time in cafeterias.

THE APPROACH: Human-centered design is a research approach that prioritizes the input of those who will be most impacted by the project. From December 2017 through May 2018, FoodCorps conducted immersive research in nine diverse school communities.

THE RESULTS: FoodCorps identified themes from hundreds of interviews conducted during the research process. One of these themes is that students want their voices to be heard, and their perspective is clear: they value the break from academic learning that lunchtime provides, and they want a cafeteria experience that provides choices and reflects their cultural identity.

THE REPORT: Download the Reimagining School Cafeterias report in English or Spanish.


We're reimagining school cafeterias to be more joyful, inclusive places

Based on findings and in partnership with sweetgreen, FoodCorps is piloting three cafeteria programs that create opportunities for students to voice their opinions and make choices in the cafeteria. Together with sweetgreen in schools, we are reimagining school cafeterias, guiding students to experiment with healthy food, and empowering them to make healthier choices every day.

Tasty Challenge: Kids taste a vegetable or fruit prepared at least two different ways and vote for their favorite! The school’s cafeteria staff may even decide to put the winning dish on the menu.

Flavor Bar: Kids customize their meals by picking a few sauces, spices, and condiments to put in the cafeteria, with approval from cafeteria staff. Kids can explore new flavors and share their community and culture with others.

Our School Cafeteria: Kids brainstorm how they might update their school cafeteria environment and then see their ideas come to life! Students lead discussions around how the cafeteria feels and sounds, and schools work with kids to approve the ideas and make them happen.

In the 2019-2020 school year, we are bringing the pilots into 15 schools across the United States. We’ll then take our learnings toward introducing these programs in 50 schools in the 2020-2021 school year.