SF schools cook up a new approach to the cafeteria experience

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.—A recipe for a whole new cafeteria experience is being served up in San Francisco public schools, consisting of a pinch of progress, a dash of technology and a sprinkle of student input.

Following a five-month collaboration last year with Bay Area-based design and consulting firm IDEO to rethink the San Francisco Unified School District's food system, officials this fall will launch pilot initiatives to revamp spaces and incorporate technology to transform the overall dining experience for students and faculty.

"We really are changing what it means to eat lunch within the schools," Angela McKee, project manager for SFUSD's future dining experience, said at a recent panel discussion of the topic.

The panel, held May 28 at the urban policy think tank SPUR, revealed the district's vision for a food experience drawing on the input of more than 1,300 students, parents, nutrition staff, principals, teachers and administrators.

"This is the first project where we've taken a truly student-centered approach" to the district's food system, said Zetta Reicker, interim director of Student Nutrition Services for the SFUSD.

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
trail mix

We’ve added fueling stations in our units for our workers who didn’t have time to eat or just need a snack. We have areas set up with trail mix, crackers, cookies and water. It helps us avoid people feeling or getting ill, especially when we get closer to exam periods and student workers are studying and not taking the time to eat.

Ideas and Innovation
reusable coffee cup thermos

We were inspired by a book titled “Influence” to start a sustainable cup program called My Cup. All 15,000 new students receive a reusable cup with their name on it, which they can use at the dining halls. Personalizing helps them invest in the program and actually use it.

Menu Development
quinoa bowl

In a time of growing health consciousness, it might not be enough anymore for food to be merely filling. According to Technomic’s 2016 Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report , diners are looking for food with a function, such as those with high protein content, immunity-boosting properties, antioxidants, probiotics and more. The data suggests 63% of consumers see these foods as healthier than those without any specific nutritional function—and would be more likely to buy them.

But are those stated preferences translating on an operational level? There, the answer is less clear. Baby...

Ideas and Innovation
phone bed call sick

We make people call and directly talk to their boss or supervisor if they are reporting an absence for a shift. While it is more cumbersome, it is a conscious decision. We have adapted and implemented electronic methods to obtain efficiencies in just about every other functional area, except for electronic absence reporting systems. The direct supervisor can put more pressure on an employee to show up—especially those with some form of the “Super Bowl plague”—than any electronic system can.

FSD Resources