The Frazer Eagle Café- Smarter Lunchroom Makeover Soars in Syracuse

It’s a bird, it’s a plane- no, it’s the Frazer Eagle Café!  –  the first of its kind  in the 28-building urban district- and its kids are soaring over the awesome new “café”. Colorful, healthy food and activity choice  “artwork” decorates  the cafeteria walls and  menu boards  feature daily lunch offerings as students are invited  to enter the café;  The re-designed lunch line entices students to choose the healthier entrée, the creatively named vegetables,  the fresh fruit layered in tiered baskets,  and  the super-chilled milk featuring the white milk front and center.

Annette Marchbanks, Assistant Food Service Director for the Syracuse City School District eagerly embraced the idea of piloting the Smarter Lunchroom Makeover (SLM) in  the SCSD four middle schools when CCE Onondaga Nutrition educators approached her with the team from the Cornell Food and Brand Lab in  2012. Annette attended the SLR training course armed with the tools and motivation to enact change. One year later, she spearheaded the makeover for Frazer Elementary Cafeteria  with administration, teachers and students working together to create a welcoming, colorful and very progressive “café” to replace the former lunchroom.

Annette plans to tackle a few schools in the district each year until ALL Syracuse City Schools are transformed into Smarter Lunchrooms. Under the Community Eligibility Option (CEO) all of the 20,000 plus district students may receive both breakfast and lunch at no cost, regardless of income. As such, it is critical to enact changes  to increase the amount of nutritious food that was consumed and enjoyed and to reduce plate waste.

The Frazer Elementary team led by the School’s Lunch Manager, Susan Rodriquez, quickly realized that a comprehensive makeover that incorporated key components from the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement research was the best approach to success.  They formed a 32-member SNAC team (Student Nutrition Advisory Council) featuring youth from the K-5 “Say Yes to Education” after-school program. With help from student interns and support from the American Cancer Society student interns:

  • Renamed the cafeteria “Frazer Eagle Café “
  • Brainstormed names for the vegetables and creative menu cards for the lunch line. New veggie names included” Jumping’ Green Beans, Tonto Wedges, Sassy Sweet Corn, Brain-Power Broccoli, Brilliant Baked Beams and Smashed Taters
  • Conducted after school recipe sessions with over 40 students creating and sampling menu makeovers. A whole wheat Panini sandwich with turkey ham and veggies was a clear winner and will be featured in the 2013-14 cycle menus.
  • Voted on a “Chobani” Greek yogurt day to expose students to the new menu item.
  • Developed  a cache of artwork for the Cafeteria Bulletin board with student artists changing the theme every two months
  • Embraced key changes in the school breakfast program. With over 800 students enrolled the team suggested that the K-5 students enjoy breakfast in the classroom with their teachers in a quiet, supportive environment. While students in grades 6-8 were invited to breakfast in the cafeteria. These changes worked – school breakfast is now a success!
  • A School Farmer’s Market was piloted featuring fresh produce displayed with interactive student “touch and smell” activities and veggie preparation led by a volunteer chef.  


Kathy Dischner,  Nutrition and 4H-Youth Development Issue Leader  Cornell Cooperative Extension of Onondaga County

Annette Marchbanks,  Assistant Food Service Director – Syracuse City School District

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