Nonprofit FoodCorps has launched a new program aimed at giving kids a voice to transform their cafeteria just in time for the new school year.
The Our Cafeteria Project builds on a pilot program FoodCorps, which aims to align kids with healthy foods at school, launched during the 2019-2020 school year.
Throughout the program, a group of students participate in activities to get them thinking about how they feel in their cafeteria and how they can improve the physical environment. Students work with their peers to identify a project they want to take on, such as installing a mural in the cafeteria.
They then collaborate with teachers, principals and cafeteria staff to make their project a reality.
“It's a program that helps educators build relationships with students and allows students to share their voices and perspective around what a cafeteria environment could look like if it's more welcoming and inclusive based on their experience,” says FoodCorps’ Director of Innovation Lucy Flores.
FoodCorps has released a program guidebook to help districts set up and run the program. While the cafeteria setting may look different due to the pandemic, the Our Cafeteria Program is flexible and can be applied to a variety of formats.
“Even though it's called Our Cafeteria Project, it can very much be applied to classroom eating environments or outdoor eating environments, or wherever school nutrition and school teams have students eating at any given time,” says Flores.
A program for everybody
The program is intended for school districts that have a FoodCorps member present, however, it can be run by those who have a dedicated adult or group of adults. “We do make [the guidebook] available for free on our website,” says Flores. “Anybody can go and download it.”
Already, the program has been met with excitement by FoodCorps members, and Flores hopes it will help districts around the country bring about meaningful change, especially as students return to in-person schooling.
“The cafeteria environment is a place where educators and principals in particular have a certain amount of oversight and school nutrition teams also have a different certain amount of oversight, and so this is a really cool opportunity to bring everyone around the table together and to talk about what a shared vision looks like,” says Flores.