Classroom – Cafeteria Connection

Classroom – Cafeteria Connection

In a perfect world, kids (and adults!) would make food choices based on careful consideration of nutrition content. But in reality, food choices are more often influenced by the environment where foods are selected. Convenience, marketing, adult prompting, and peer attitudes strongly influence children’s food selections, particularly in a rushed cafeteria line.

The cafeteria is a lab where students can turn nutrition knowledge into action. We can help them apply their knowledge by creating an environment that supports healthy choices. Help students get the best nutrition out of school meals using the resources below.

Cornell University’s Center for Behavioral Economics in Childhood Nutrition Programs has conducted extensive research on nudging students toward healthy choices in the cafeteria. For more information visit

Getting to Know the School Meals Program: The resources below will help you understand lunchroom dynamics and develop a positive relationship with food service staff.

Nudging Students Toward Healthy Choices: Steering students toward healthy foods can be as simple as using positive verbal prompts and promoting healthy menu items with fun, creative names.

Curricular Connections: Extending classroom-based nutrition education into the cafeteria helps students connect the information they’ve learned to the choices available in the lunchroom. This can be as simple as talking up an item on the lunch menu that was tasted in the classroom. Teachers implementing FSNE’s ReFresh curriculum can modify several activities to connect to the cafeteria:

Tasting Events: Creating opportunities to sample new foods is key to developing healthy eaters. Healthy foods can be sampled in the classroom, or with a little more planning, during taste tests that involve the whole school.

Tasting Event Materials Checklist

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