Do You Know What’s Happening in Your Lunchroom? Healthy Lunch Tips for School Administrators

The lunchroom can be viewed as the ‘learning laboratory’ for nutrition and health lessons. For this reason, it is important to know what is going on in the lunchroom to ensure that it does everything it can to support healthy eating behaviors. Some ‘best practices’ from the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement website show some low-cost ways you and your school food service team can reinforce your students’ healthy behaviors with little time investment or cost:

  1. Think like a marketer. Suggest these tips to the food service director:

  • Location, location, location. Move whole fruit to a nice bowl near the register or to another prominent part of the cafeteria. This can increase sales of whole fruit by 102%. 
  • Is your menu enticing? Rename vegetables to make them sound more fun and interesting. Hard to believe, but sales of vegetables increased in a school lunchroom by 27% when making this change.
  • Hide the trash. Walking into a lunchroom with the smell or sight of garbage as your first impression is not likely to make anyone excited about eating there.
  1. Are you a supporter of your school’s lunchroom?

  • Here’s the $64,000 question – do YOU eat in your school’s lunchroom? A survey of Philadelphia’s school district employees found that 79% reported they never saw their principals eating in the school cafeteria. You’ll find out a lot by eating in your school’s lunchroom and you’ll get to taste test some of the federal school meal changes that are being implemented.
  1. Grow support for your school by sourcing from local growers.

  • Does your school connect to nearby farms so that more fresh and tasty food becomes part of school meals? Farm to school programs help make this connection. These programs can be found in all but five states and are part of more than 2,000 districts across the country. Getting your school involved can help improve the quality of school meals, influence students’ healthy food choices and identify more community supporters of your school’s meals.

Principals are key to supporting their school lunchrooms as learning environments. Your involvement in making school meals the centerpiece of your students’ healthy food choices will speak volumes to students, staff and parents.


Ellen Schuster, MS, RD, University of Missouri Extension


Inside the Lunchroom – Workers’ Vision for Real Food and Safe Schools

Farm to School

Smarter Lunchrooms Movement