University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Tweak the menu for strong meal participation until summer's out!

Student with backpack walking outside and touching flowering tree

Spring is just around the corner, and soon the school year will be winding down. How can you keep students interested in school meals?

1. Make tiny tweaks to pique their interest.

If you make pancakes in-house, consider making them mini-sized, or use molds or metal cookie cutters to give the pancakes shapes. Can you add toppings or even offer a “make your own pancake” bar?

2. Include seasonal items!

Harvest of the Month is an excellent resource for staying up to date on what fruits and vegetables are in season. As a bonus, put up trivia and fun facts about ingredients that are on the menu.

3. Although you may already have your menus planned and food ordered, this is a great time to hold taste tests for new items and recipes you’re considering adding to the menu next year.

4. If you aren’t able to change up any parts of the menu, you can zoom in on marketing instead.

Make sure you have good signage in the cafeteria and consider putting out a “display tray” to show students a plated meal. Offer samples of items that may not be as popular. Consider promoting upcoming meals on your school’s social media.

What do YOU do to keep meal participation strong until school’s out? Email us at with your tips!