University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Want students to eat more of their meals? Try these policy and environmental updates.

Chalk on concrete

We know policy changes can be challenging, but scheduling tweaks can make a big difference with how much food is eaten.

  • Lengthening the meal period is a big ask, but when students have more time, they are able to eat more.
  • Could you stagger the start of lunch periods so groups enter a few minutes apart? This cuts down on the amount of time each student spends in line and allows for more time to eat.
  • Are there additional spaces that could be used for students to eat? This can allow for greater flexibility with scheduling, and a less crowded and chaotic environment is far more pleasant.
  • Is it possible to schedule recess before lunch? Studies have shown recess before lunch can increase fruit and vegetable consumption by up to 54%!

Although it might be daunting, it’s worth having a conversation with administration about these ideas to improve your use of nutrition funds and decrease waste.

Even if you can’t change policy, there are some easier ways to improve the eating experience for your students:

  • Display appealing posters in eating areas
  • Keep serving and eating areas clear of clutter
  • Make sure to have a menu board displaying the day’s choices, and consider having the next day’s options as well
  • Create an enjoyable atmosphere with good lighting, low noise levels, and a comfortable temperature
  • Train staff on good customer service

Want more ideas? In our next post, we'll discuss preventing waste in the kitchen with planning, procurement, and preparation.