How to Encourage Students to Eat School Meals

Schoolwork, sports, testing, clubs, and other activities -- there’s a lot that schoolchildren are required to accomplish in a single day. To ensure they have the nutrients they need to be successful in these endeavors, it’s essential to establish healthy eating habits. By increasing the popularity of school lunches, schools can do their part to build good nutrition in students, thus helping them succeed.

This is not an easy task, though. Encouraging student participation in school breakfast and lunch comes with many challenges, and we will tackle some of those here.

Why School Meals Matter

Research shows that food insecurity, obesity rates, and poor student health are all reduced by offering school lunches to a broader range of the student population. When food insecure students know they have a dependable meal daily, it reduces their stress and guarantees they can enjoy high nutrition standards. Drops in school meal participation can ultimately hurt the student body regardless of socioeconomics, though, because school nutrition plays a direct role in academic success in the classroom.

By providing nutritional options, students, children, and teenagers can access the right food groups that power learning. Rather than students depending on nutrient-lacking meals, schools can provide high-quality, scratch-cooked school lunches that meet nutritional standards and taste great.

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The Challenges of Getting Students to Choose Healthy Options

Even though we know there are many great benefits to school meals, there are still challenges to getting students to take advantage of school meal programs and make healthy choices. Some of the most common barriers to getting involved in a school nutrition program include the limited timeframe for meals. Students don’t have much time set aside for meals, so they don’t want to wait in long lines for food. 


Another common barrier is the limited exposure to nutritious options that students face in their daily lives. If a student has limited access to certain types of foods, they might not be willing to give them a chance when offered through the school. In addition, there can be peer pressure and negative social stigma attached to eating school meals. Students who depend on school lunches can sometimes be the victims of bullying or teasing from classmates, which further discourages them from participating in school meal programs. 

Strategies for Inspiring Students to Choose Nutritious Options with the Help of Vulcan

Making your school meal program fun and delicious is a great way to encourage participation. Offering a variety of options and flavors, creating visually appealing food, and making mealtime a positive experience can go a long way in increasing the number of students making healthy choices for school lunches. However, cafeteria staff needs the right school foodservice equipment to accomplish this. 

Different cooking solutions like convection, combi, and hold and cook ovens help expand menu diversity, which gives students more diverse options than typical cafeteria food. Other pieces of equipment like steamers, braising pans, and kettles can help with tasty sides and mains that students will love. And holding cabinets help keep food at the right temperature so students don’t have to worry about cold lunches, even when they are at the end of the line. 

It’s important for K-12 students to have the healthy and nutritious meal options they need to get through the school day provided by the school. By investing in quality school foodservice equipment, you can meet the needs of students and deliver delicious meals that help them learn.

Learn more about Vulcan and how they can help create high-quality, efficient service delivery in today's school cafeterias.

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