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Signs Your School Lunch Program Needs To Change

Gen Zs, the students currently walking through our school hallways, are emerging foodies, reporting more interest in a variety of cuisines and more likelihood to eat away from home. At the same time, they are eating fewer meals in school cafeterias. Nationally school meal participation has dropped 7% in the last 2 years.

Our local culinary teams have taken a deep dive into this disconnect and found that school leaders have the opportunity to capture the attention—and taste buds—of their students.

How? By listening.

We already know a great deal about this generation—they prefer entrees from a variety of cultures; they like plant-based meals; and they do not like to wait in line.

We can tell even more when we collect insights from the particular students we serve. Our team has used surveys and social platforms to find out what our students like to eat, where and what’s popular in the community.

“Understanding school nutrition means understanding today’s students,”  said B.J. Mandelstam, Vice President of Sodexo Schools.

A few of the many insights we’ve learned: 

  • Food service programs can be more successful when they are flexible with how they deliver meals, adding mobile carts, smart vending and other points of sale to their portfolio. 
  • Offering spices and sauces so students can customize their dishes is a popular trend. 
  • These students are waste conscious and want to learn about sustainability efforts.  

Of course, schools have full plates already educating their students. Some may think a food service overhaul is too much work. 

In fact, we’ve found the benefits of increased participation are worth the effort, both to the students and to the school’s bottom line. Knowing what students will eat cuts down on the costs and waste associated with excess food and helps with budget predictability.

Our teams can help show schools how to reach their students and adapt to their preferences. Learn more about how we connect with students and create customized menus through Sodexo School services.


February 11, 2020

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