Rejuvenating Appetites and Student Participation

By Tandi Dausener

Rejuvenating Appetites and Student Participation

Today’s middle school and high school cafeterias, often untouched since the day they were constructed, lack the excitement that most students are looking for. Poor lighting, limited choices, time consuming lines, and outdated serving methods present an unappetizing option to savvy students. With other options competing for students’ attention, cafeterias become underutilized; participation drops and revenue in school lunch programs suffer.

Creating a more sophisticated dining experience more in line with what students see outside of school hours can help rejuvenate student participation in their school’s food and nutrition programs. Consider the following ideas for a richer, more student focused environment for your schools:

Expedite the process

Time is valuable to students. Lunch periods are getting shorter and waiting in long lines is a no-go for most kids. Utilizing food court and scatter style serving methods will reduce serving times and allow more students to be served faster. Providing prep areas adjacent to serving areas will increase kitchen efficiency.

Provide variety

From the way meals are offered to the way food is presented, kids want choices. Providing both daily and day-to-day varieties and different methods from grab-and -go prepackaged items to self-service bars can help satisfy this need. Arranging the serving area to showcase the diversity of projects will highlight the variety of options.

Improve presentation

People use their ears, eyes and noses when it comes to food selection. Arrange the kitchen and serving areas to allow students to see, smell and hear the food being prepared. Providing bright, well light spaces helps make the options more appealing.

Enhance the ambience

Treat the kitchen and cafeteria as a retail space tailored to the student consumer. A retail space utilizes appropriate lighting, relevant materials and displays with regular updating. A well designed space with access to technology and ample opportunity for socializing encourages student participation.

Provide versatility

Utilizing different seating methods from standing height counters, tables and chairs in open seating areas to smaller quiet zones gives each student an opportunity to tailor their environment to their own needs. Encourage the use of the cafeteria space for non-food and nutrition related programs to help create a vibrant and active space.

Tandi Dausener, AIA, Architect   I have been working with school boards, administrators, teachers and students of K-12 facilities for the majority of my career as an architect.  School boards and administration are under a lot of pressure to work with small budgets, maintain and improve their facilities, appeal to their school families and communities and most importantly, keep children engaged in the learning process. 
Working with schools to set the backdrop of their students’ education through high quality and appropriate facilities has been a rewarding and exciting aspect of my career.  It continues to drive me to help seek better environments for our children as we all share in the responsibility of teaching, protecting and helping our future grow. 

Tandi Dausener, AIA, Architect
800.798.3040 |

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