Improve Meal and Menu Quality

In This Section

How does the food taste at your school?  Is the menu full of diverse, fresh, and healthy options or is the same food served every week?  The food service team wants students to enjoy mealtime and eat the school breakfast and lunch, but often feel constrained by the nutritional standards.  Working on meal and menu quality can be an opportunity to advocate for healthier, tastier menu items and food preparation practices that improve students’ enjoyment of mealtime.


Assessing meal and menu quality will help determine which meals students don’t like, which are most popular, and what should be replaced or improved.

How to Assess:  Work with your school nutrition manager to identify menu items that students consistently do not purchase. Also, identify the menu items that students consistently point out as least and most favorite on the National PTA’s Student and Family Perception Survey {link to PDF}

Consider These Strategies:

  1. Swap out unpopular lunch or breakfast items for newer, revamped entrée options.
  2. Enlist a local chef or parent superstar cook who can help revamp the menu and train the food service team to make meals more enjoyable.
  3. Work to incorporate more fresh fruits and vegetables into the breakfast and lunch program. Investigate the possibility of a salad bar, school garden, and/or a farm to school partnership with local farmers.
  4. Encourage student involvement. Start a school meals student recipe contest that encourages students to submit a recipe they would like to see served in the cafeteria. Have the food service team choose a recipe they will highlight the following month.
  5. Provide taste testing activities with students to see how they prefer fruits and vegetables to be prepared.

Learn More:

The Let’s Cook Healthy School Meals is a chef inspired compilation of school meals recipes that can be used for swapping in new recipes into your school meals menu.

Salad Bars to Schools donates salad bars to schools.