Welcoming Students to a New Year of Learning and Nutrition

Chef Michael Morris
About the author : Chef Michael Morris

Director of Operational Excellence

Published on : 9/11/23
  • For school-aged kids — from pre-K to high school seniors — the start of the school year brings with it excitement and maybe a little bit of the jitters. After all, there are a lot of unknowns no matter what grade you’re in: who are your teachers this year? Where’s your locker? Will your friends be in the same classes?

    And the loudest question of all — at least if your stomach is growling: What kind of food will there be in the cafeteria? 

    Sodexo knows how important it is to create a welcoming environment in our schools, and lunchrooms are prime places for bonding and making new friends. Food is central to our lives no matter how old we are, and sharing a communal meal nourishes both our mind and body.   

    School Nutrition Options for Every Stage of Student Development  

    Our food services for schools cater to different age levels. Starting with the interiors, the elementary school cafeteria is painted in bold primary colors, with trees, landscapes, clouds and skies on the walls. As the students get older and move on to middle school and high school, the bright colors give way to a more modern, industrial look — a more “adult” interior that’s age-appropriate but still welcoming.   
    In elementary schools, our food program is called The Clubhouse. Meals are served in a tray that’s meant to be eaten in one spot, and the overall dynamic is very much adult-driven, with staff directing children to their food and their seats. The vibe is fun and inclusive with healthy nutrition at the forefront. Students are introduced to a variety of dishes and flavors and learn about the importance of nutrition while feeling like they’re part of the club.  

    chefs serving lunch

    As the students move up to middle school and their palates develop, they are introduced to trending flavor profiles, convenient meals, sustainable alternatives and healthy options at the foodiE Cafe. This dining program is less staff-directed, and students are given more room to explore, engage and enjoy making independent choices.  
    Taste4 is the dining program for high school students. The menu features world flavors, spicy comfort foods and unique, fun food combinations created for students with ever-expanding and more sophisticated palates. Salads and wraps, deli sandwiches, pasta, grilled favorites and pop-up restaurant style meals like Beale Street BBQ and Spice House are just some of the choices in this food court-type setting. 

    New Ideas to Keep Kids Engaged

    For the 2023-2024 school year, Sodexo is launching a monthly dining series at all grade levels called Big City Bites, which highlights regional specialties from major cities such as Chicago (Italian beef sandwich), Austin (Texas chili) and Philadelphia (Philly cheesesteak). It’s yet another way for students to feel connected to their schools and the place they live through food.   

    Friendly Faces Help Students Feel Welcome  

    In addition to the carefully tailored décor, menu variety, education opportunities and special events, one key ingredient ensures students feel welcome from the moment they walk through the cafeteria door: our staff members. A friendly face, a warm smile and a quick but authentic interaction at mealtime can all play a crucial part in helping students feel more at ease as they start the new school year.

    Sodexo teams spend part of the summer getting ready to welcome students each year. Our staff undergoes a back-to-school training program encompassing food safety, customer service and menu updates. When those cafeteria doors open, we are ready to welcome kids to a new year of learning and eating — with smiles on our faces and nutritious and exciting meals for students of all ages.