Category Archives: Schools

school cafeteria ideas for decorations

School Cafeteria Ideas for Decorations and Products

School Cafeteria Ideas

With the 2014/2015 school year coming to a close, now is the time to start gathering school cafeteria ideas to decorate for the remainder of the year and early next year. The cafeteria is a gathering place, one that many students are excited to visit each day. Creating a fun environment helps to provide students a break from school work but could also create more learning opportunities as well.

Post Signage on Responsibilities

Students need a reminder of what is expected of them while they are in the lunch room. In the blog “Step into Second Grade with Mrs. Lemons,” she  has a series of “Responsibilities” posters, with “Cafeteria Responsibilities is one of them.

On her site she offers the ability for schools to download and print them for their own use, with the “Cafeteria Responsibilities” poster being great school cafeteria idea to post in the lunch room.

Products to Mix Things Up for Fun

Many children struggle with some of the new foods required in school cafeterias, while others get bored and ancy in a sterile white environment. Bring some life to your space with a variety of food service equipment and supplies!

Some ideas include:

Reward Good Behavior

Elementary School Counseling works to improve student behavior in the various parts of schools, such as cafeterias, hallways or classrooms.

The “Good Behavior Competition” part of their website gives great examples of signage to post on the walls to encourage students to be on their best behavior, similar to the first section of this blog on responsibilities signage.

Elementary School Counseling did a study to see if student behavior would change for the more positive after putting their initiatives in place. The program turned out to be successful and is a great model for school cafeteria ideas for improvement.

Visit their website and scroll to the “Materials” section to download signage to run these programs in your own school.

Aim to Inspire

Think out of the box to get students motivated and inspired during their lunch break. Grandfield High School in Grandfield, Okla., had a great saying near a clock. Simple, but great motivation for students.


Looking for equipment or supplies to finish out the cafeteria? Central has everything from cafeteria trays to milk coolers to heated cabinets. Shop today on our website or call us at 800.215.9293 for fast, expert advice.


Photo credit for image at top: JoeInSouthernCA / Foter / CC BY-ND

From School Nutrition Association - National School Breakfast Week

National School Breakfast Week: March 2-6, 2015

National School Breakfast Week

National School Breakfast Week is an annual School Nutrition Association (SNA) event for members to celebrate the program and increase school participation. This year’s event will be held March 2 through March 6, 2015.

national school breakfast week

Web banner from the School Nutrition Association

Benefits of Participating

According to an SNA poll of their members, 96 percent said student participation increased during National School Breakfast Week. But there are many other benefits as well! By taking part in this event, the SNA says schools can:

  • Increase student participation of local programs
  • Inform parents of healthy and tasty breakfasts
  • Earn media coverage from local news outlets
  • Connect with teachers and school administrators about healthy school breakfasts

Theme for 2015

National School Breakfast Week for 2015 will focus on “Make the Grade with School Breakfast.” SNA explained this year’s event will highlight how eating a nutritious breakfast will help students achieve success in the classroom and beyond.

National School Breakfast Week

Image from the SNA National School Breakfast Week toolkit

Tools and Resources

One of the great things about the SNA is the amount of information and details they provide for schools to participate in events like National School Breakfast Week. All a school has to do is take the materials they provide and run the program. Below are resources for schools to get started:

Art Contest

A great addition for schools participating in this year’s National School Breakfast Week is the SNA’s “Before & After School Breakfast” art contest.  This is an opportunity for schools to encourage students to create artwork about the benefits of eating school breakfast. SNA will accept entries through March 31, 2015 and National School Breakfast Week is a great time to get this event kicked off! For more information, go to the SNA website.

Will your school be participating in this year’s National School Breakfast Week? Please share below!

Top image photo credit: Image at top from the SNA Flickr page.

school food service calendar

Mark Your Calendar! Important 2015 School Food Service Dates

Throughout the year the School Nutrition Association has events, recognized days and conferences to specifically help the school food service industry. These events help educate school food service professionals on the latest events, trends and other important factors as well as provide some fun for the school and the students.

Learn about what’s on board for school food services in 2015 and please share what you are looking forward to this year in the comments!

school food service

Photo credit: cogdogblog / Foter / CC BY-SA

School Food Service Conferences and Events

Legislative Action Conference

March 1-4, 2015

Conference to help school food services learn about legislature issues that affect child nutrition programs. There will also be an opportunity to meet with elected representatives on Capitol Hill.

National Leadership Conference

April 23-25, 2015

Conference that gives the opportunity for current and future state and national leaders to learn important information about leading a nonprofit association, networking with other leaders across the country and skills to become better leaders.

Industry Boot Camp

May 13-14, 2015

Educational seminar to help school food service industry representatives of all experience levels the “ins and outs” of the school nutrition segment.

Annual National Conference

July 12-15, 2015

Event for anyone in the school food service industry such as school nutritionists, industry members and allied organization members to learn the latest in the school food service industry!

school food service events

Photo credit: USDAgov / Foter / CC BY


Celebration of School Nutrition Heroes

March 2, 2015

Recognition and a celebration of school nutrition heroes that have made an impact in the school food service industry.

National School Breakfast Week

March 2-6, 2015

Celebrate National School Breakfast Week with the theme “Make the Grade with School Breakfast.” Get information now to make this year’s event a success for your school food service!

School Lunch Hero Day

May 1, 2015

Opportunity to recognize school food service professionals that work hard for the student’s success. This event showcases how different professionals make a difference for the children that walk through their doors.

School Lunch Week

October 12-15, 2015

Increase awareness and participation in your school food service program during this week! The theme has not yet been announced but will be an opportunity to get students, educators, school food service professionals and parents excited about school lunch!

Image at top photo credit: DafneCholet / Foter / CC BY

National School Lunch Week Asks Schools to Get in the Game

This week is National School Lunch Week. Presented by the School Nutrition Association, NSLW was created in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy, and is a celebratory week of events and activities promoting the benefits of the National School Lunch Program. According to the SNA, the NSLP provides 5.1 billion lunches annually–over 3 million kids served every day. The SNA created a helpful toolkit to give ideas to schools to celebrate this week. The theme for this year’s program is “Get in the Game with School Lunch.” The goal of this theme is to emphasize the importance of balancing healthy eating and physical activity for kids.

Tips for Success

The SNA has provided a list of tips to have a successful NSLW. One of the main tips is to get students involved. It could be having a sports-themed art contest, or creating a survey about favorite menu items. No matter what you do, it’s important to make the students feel like they’re involved in the celebration. Another tip is to decorate. It’s a celebration, so it should look the part! NSLW posters can be found at the SNA’s website.

The SNA also recommends keeping parents in the loop about NSLW. There are brochures available on their website to send home with your menus so that parents know it is a special week in the cafeteria. Finally, what promotion would be complete without social media? Utilize your school’s Twitter, Facebook, newsletter, blog and more to get the word out about NSLW.

Celebration Ideaskid soccer

There are several ways to engage students, parents and faculty during this week. One idea is to bring in a local athlete to talk to your students about the importance of eating healthy for energy. It’s one thing for Mr. Anderson to tell the class to eat healthy. It’s another thing for DEREK JETER to tell the class to eat healthy! That’s what I’m talking about (Okay, so Derek Jeter probably won’t be available to talk to your school, but local high school or college athletes would!).

Another idea shared by the SNA is to distribute pieces of paper shaped like footballs or baseballs to students, asking them what their favorite sports or activities are, as well as what healthy meal they should eat beforehand for energy. You could post or hang these in the cafeteria for the week.

For staff, it might be fun to ask them to wear sports costumes for lunch. Whether it’s their favorite team’s jersey, or as a referee, getting staff involved really helps drive enthusiasm for the program.

Get in the Game

For more information on NSLW, click here. And if you need any kitchen equipment or supplies, don’t hesitate to visit our website or call 800-215-9293 to speak to one of our helpful product consultants

Image at top photo credit: School Nutrition Association

School Cafeteria Halloween Ideas

School Cafeteria Halloween Ideas for 2014

School Cafeteria Halloween Ideas

Is your school cafeteria Halloween event being planned? With Halloween just around the corner, now is the time to start preparing for this year’s festivities!

School Cafeteria Halloween Ideas

Photo credit: joebart / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Fun Treats

Pinterest is filled with ideas for your school cafeteria Halloween events. For instance these  Spooky Spider Cookies from Tablespoon, the Spider Cupcakes pictured at right, Pumpkin Rice Krispy Treats from CincyShopper, or Easy Pumpkin Pretzels from Inspired Dreamer. Looking for something super easy? It doesn’t get much simpler than this: Jack O Lantern Quesadillas. This two-ingredient recipe from Spoonful will make kids smile and will be quick to make. Use a cookie cutter or a knife to design the faces.

Healthy Ideas

There are ways to celebrate Halloween with food that fall under the USDA’s nutritional guidelines. For instance, an easy idea are these small mandarin oranges from Under Construction with pumpkin faces, or pumpkin fruit cups from Stockpiling Moms. School cafeterias can also put together a Halloween themed display of vegetables, such as this Pumpkin Vegetable Display from Siriously Delicious. Then Listotic has these easy “Healthy Banana Ghosts” that can be made by staff or students, as well as these Clementine Pumpkins. Some of these can be passed out, but others could be placed on melamine serving trays that will not break if dropped.

School Cafeteria Halloween Bulletin Board

Photo credit: eltpics / Foter / CC BY-NC

Halloween Bulletin Board

Give students something to look forward to with a Halloween bulletin board. Whether it’s putting on a countdown, displaying art or educating about Halloween across the globe–check out MPM Ideas for cafeteria Halloween board ideas that include school menu items, art and even a school allergy list for reference.

Allergy Free Goodies

When planning school cafeteria Halloween menu items, be sure to keep any student allergies in mind. The Celebration Shop has put together this list of allergy-free treats that can be used in a school cafeteria.

Themed Drinks

Switch things up from the normal milk or juice with Halloween themed beverages! Flipflopping Mama has this easy idea for bottled water with pumpkin faces and orange drink packets attached. Serve them by hand or have them out in a drink bin. Dress up existing milk cartons or juice boxes to be mummified with this idea from Happy Little Kiwi! If your kitchen has extra time, Nest of Posies has a “Spooky Shirley Temple” recipe that will go over great with students!

School Cafeteria Halloween Crafts

Photo credit: Evil Cheese Scientist / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Display School Crafts

Students love to have their work on display, especially when it is for an occasion. Work with teachers for art and craft ideas, such as these from Enchanted Learning, for students to make and display around the school cafeteria for Halloween.


When it comes to making all these Halloween goodies, be sure your school cafeteria has the appropriate supplies. From baking supplies and equipment, to melamine trays and drink containers–Central has everything you need to make sure your school cafeteria Halloween event goes on without a hitch! Visit or call a product consultant at 800-215-9293 for help.

Image at top photo credit: sherimiya ♥ / Foter / CC BY-NC

Fuel Up to Play 60 at Your School!

As summer slowly winds down, many families begin to prepare for another fun-filled school year for their kids. But what if your family and friends had the power to make your child’s school even better than it already is? Teaming up with Fuel Up to Play 60 can help not only your school, but also other students!

Fuel Up to Play 60

This fun program was developed to encourage the youth to eat healthy and be more active, and by being physically active and well-nourished, kids become better students in the classroom. A balanced diet, including eating a healthy breakfast every day, helps students get the important nutrients to succeed with their academic performance. Adding in physical activity has shown to help students improve their self-esteem, cognitive function and test scores.

Schools and students that participate in the Fuel Up to Play 60 program have the opportunity to earn rewards and prizes, and the students that help build the program at their school can possibly benefit even more, making it a win-win for everyone!

Educational professionals, school adults and parents can also help out with Fuel Up to Play 60! The program gives adults tools to help meet the school’s goals and supports you trying to make your school a healthier place. Fuel Up to Play 60 requires at least one Program Advisor – an adult who will engage with and empower students to help incorporate the program within the school and encourage others in the community to get involved.

Benefitting Schools

How exactly does Fuel Up to Play 60 benefit sch

Image via U.S. Department of Agriculture

Image via U.S. Department of Agriculture

ools? Fuel Up supports your school’s wellness policy and helps meet national health and physical education standards. “At the same time, the program aligns with other healthy school national goals and initiatives – all of which share the goal of reducing childhood obesity,” the website explains. “As an added bonus, Fuel Up to Play 60 can also get teachers and staff eating healthy and moving more.”

There are six steps towards getting your school started with Fuel Up to Play 60. Click here to learn all about them!

Funding Opportunities

If your school is in need of funding to get Fuel Up to Play 60 started, there are grants available for qualifying K-12 schools. Up to $4,000 is available for those enrolled in the program to kick start healthy changes. For schools to qualify, your school must participate in the National School Lunch Program and have a registered Program Advisor for Fuel Up to Play 60.

To get started with the program, the Program Advisor and your school’s Fuel Up team will need to choose one Healthy Eating Play and one Physical Activity Play from the 2014-15 Playbook. The School Wellness Investigation will help you determine which play will work best for your school.

Remember, the final deadline to register and apply for funding for this school year is Wednesday, November 5th, 2014.

Looking for tools and resources to use for Fuel Up to Play 60? Click here!

Incorporating Healthy Nutrition to the Menu

When your school is granted funding for Fuel Up to Play 60, you can use that money to improve your kitchen by shopping at Central! Vitamix products are perfect for school kitchens because of their efficiency and durability. Vitamix’s blenders can be used for food prep, drinks and smoothies and much more. Vitamix blenders are constructed out of quality materials so you can be sure it will last school year after year. You can create smoothies, ice cream, grate cheese, shred carrots and more!

Need Help?

If you’re looking for more information on the Fuel Up to Play 60 program, find all the resources and other information by clicking here. Need help on finding the right Vitamix blender for your school? Contact one of our helpful Product Consultants by chatting live or calling them at 800-215-9293.

eastlake high school school foodservice John Vandenberg

Solving the Equipment Problem in School Foodservices

Lack of Funding in School Foodservices

There is a problem in school foodservices many in the industry do not know how to solve: Inadequate kitchen equipment and supplies due to a lack of funding.

In 2009 the USDA rolled out grants for school foodservice equipment and shortly after there was $63 million in requests. The large demand inspired the Pew Charitable Trusts to look into this financial need, especially because it did not include the many schools not even eligible to apply.

school foodservice
USDAgov / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Study Results

The Pew Charitable Trusts collaborated with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to seek out solutions and the two created the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project.

“We went out to see if we could get schools more support and we didn’t have good data,” Jessica Donze Black, director of Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods, the Pew Charitable Trusts, said.

The goal of this initiative was to ensure all students have access to safe and nutritious foods so they conducted a study to find what schools needed, especially when it came to equipment and infrastructure.

There were three key findings in their study:

  1. Eighty-eight percent of schools needed one or more pieces of equipment to meet current lunch standards and 85 percent of those schools were “making do” with the items they had
  2. Only 42 percent of school food authorities had a budget to buy equipment
  3. Fifty-five percent of school food authorities were in need of infrastructure changes at one or more of their schools to meet lunch requirements

The group was astonished at the amount of essentials many school kitchens were in need of such as utility carts, sectionizers, combi ovens, knives, etc. To gain a better understanding of how schools got into these situations, they held a meeting with kitchen designers, architects and school nutrition officials (both state and federal level). Many of the issues they found came down to the lack of one thing: Funding.

Modernizing the School Foodservice

While some school foodservices are able to apply for grants, that still leaves many struggling with failing or inefficient equipment. Many assume the only budget they have to work with is the one that comes from their school and the thought of being creative does not cross their mind.

“Restaurants wouldn’t be able to pay the bills if they served only one meal a day for three hours,” Black said. “That’s historically the view we’ve had for school kitchens. But if we want to modernize kitchens, we have to expand what they do.”

With the small amount of grants currently out there, many schools are already on a positive path to changing the way they get funding. This enables them to have a school foodservice operation that best fits student needs and complies with the revised USDA nutrition guidelines.

Out of the Box Funding and Efficiency Ideas 

Black has seen and heard of many great out of the box ideas throughout the course of the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project that other schools can use as an example to bring their kitchens up to par.

Ask for Donations

School foodservices can go to local areas such as banks or car dealerships and ask for sponsorship.

“Puzzle piece to get donors to get salad bar donations, or to get the refrigerator,” Black said.

Taking donations a step further, large spaces such as theaters and hospital wings are often named after the donors that make the space possible. Why not school cafeterias? If there is a donor willing to pay to outfit a kitchen with the updates, schools can name the space after them.

school foodservice
heanster / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Create a Community Kitchen

Black has seen many cafeterias turned into community kitchens that hold cooking classes in the evenings. Other schools rent out their space when it is not in use, especially to local producers or farmers.

Smart Financing

Leasing gives schools the opportunity to purchase the new and efficient equipment they need within their current budget.

Buy Consistently for a District

School districts can streamline processes from operation to operation by having consistent equipment. This allows all materials to be the same in terms of recipes, cooking methods, etc.

Many equipment manufacturers are making things even easier by assembling them with “smart technology.” This advancement allows users to program the equipment via USB drive with specific foodservice instructions, menus, recipes, cook times and more.

Look for Grants

While there are not many grants available for school foodservice operations, they are out there. The USDA announced in April 2014 they would award $25 million in grants for equipment needs.

Schools can also apply for Salad Bars to Schools to bring a salad bar to their cafeteria.

There is also the School Food Modernization Act that has been introduced in both the House and Senate but has not yet been signed into law. This act would provide assistance to schools with equipment needs. Schools can find more information and learn how to contact their local government officials on the Pew Charitable Trusts’ website.

school foodservice
DC Central Kitchen / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Communicate and Get Involved

Throughout the course of the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project, Black noticed foodservice directors are not always involved in facility committee decisions for the district’s remodels, new constructions or general infrastructure changes.

“It’s important to go to those meetings,” she said. “They need to get the district thinking about those (needs)—so if they are building a new school, they know what resources are going into the school.”

Also during the study, the Pew Charitable Trusts asked schools what their “replacement upgrade plan” was. Many did not know or responded that it was facility’s job. In fact, Black found many foodservice directors did not have relationships established with facilities at all.

“Facilities doesn’t know what they aren’t paying attention to and foodservice directors don’t know what kind of influence they have. Take some assertiveness,” Black advised.

Central Can Help

Whether your school has a large or limited budget, Central offers any piece of foodservice equipment or supply that schools need. Find the school product guide online, which includes buying guides, extended warranties and more.

Image at top of Eastlake High School in Sammamish Washington by John Vandenberg. 
ANC School Nutrition Association

Hot Topics from the ANC: 2014 School Nutrition Association Conference

School Nutrition Association Annual National Conference

Over 6000 people gathered in Boston, Mass. for the School Nutrition Association’s Annual National Conference, ANC, to network about the latest ideas and practices, industry topics, equipment, supplies and food. This four day event began on July 13, 2014 and included nutrition professionals, industry members and allied organizations.

Hot Topic 1: Adapting to USDA Guidelines

Since the implementation of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, schools have been working to meet new nutrition standards. One of the main topics at the ANC was sharing ideas to help stay within the guidelines while serving foods students will actually be interested in.

In the presentation “Successfully Implementing the New Meal Pattern Guidelines,” representatives from Idaho’s Child Nutrition Programs, Walpole Public Schools (Massachusetts) and Norfolk Public Schools (Virginia) showed how they turned around their foodservice operations. Schools struggling with the new USDA guidelines, whether at the ANC or not, have the ability to review this presentation and use it as a model.

For schools looking for a simple quick solution on foods to serve, Idaho’s Child Nutrition Programs simplified it in a simple infographic, “Make Half Your Tray Fruits and Veggies.”

Schools can go above and beyond too. In addition to adapting to the new USDA guidelines, Norfolk Public Schools gradually implemented serving whole muscle meats and a majority of fruits and vegetables since 2011. They also removed fryers from their kitchens. (Consider switching with easy-to-use Vulcan ABC combi ovens for a healthier solution!). 

ANC Meatless Monday Booth

The Meatless Monday tote bags were a hit at the ANC! Image provided by Krisite Middleton.

Hot Topic 2: Meatless Monday

Schools across the United States have begun to adopt “Meatless Mondays” which stems from the non-profit initiative “Meatless Monday Campaigns.”

Kristie Middleton, food policy manager for the Humane Society of the United States and Meatless Monday advocate, was at the Humane Society of the United States booth to promote this initiative.

“We had a number of folks hearing about Meatless Mondays and interested in learning more,” Middleton said. “By adding more vegetarian options to a menu, it helps meet new standards, but also helps kids get the week off to a healthy start.”

One of the misconceptions of adding healthier foods to menus is that it costs more.

“In respect to financial resources, it’s not going to be more expensive,” Middleton explained. “It should be cost neutral or schools should save money.”

From what she has seen, schools have been adding menu items such as mushrooms, legumes and beans which have been an easy way to cut costs. Since many schools do not have the ability to do batch cooking, rather heat and serve, Middleton said having a Meatless Monday on the calendar has become really helpful to them.

Schools have also been using Vitamix blenders to make students quick and easy smoothies that give them the nutrients they need while disguising foods they might not normally eat.

For schools interested in starting a Meatless Monday program, the Humane Society of the United States has a complete toolkit with all materials needed included (signage, letters to parents, etc.). For funding assistance, Middleton suggested looking into grants provided by the USDA or through public health organizations.

Community Eligibility

Community eligibility map at the ANC. Image provided by Becca Segal.

Hot Topic #3: Community Eligibility

During the ANC, Becca Segal, child nutrition associate for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, shared information about community eligibility which allows high-poverty school districts to eliminate meal applications and serve free meals to students.

In her event recap, Segal explained community eligibility can help schools in several ways.

“For example, one Oregon school nutrition director who plans to adopt community eligibility, declared that she will not have to process 11,000 school meal applications this fall, enabling her to spend more time planning appealing, nutritious menus,” she said.

For schools wondering if they are eligible, the video “Community Eligibility in 70 Seconds” highlights key benefits of the program. According to the website, schools have until August 31, 2014 to sign up.

Cambro mobile food solutions at the ANC

Cambro’s mobile food solutions at the ANC. Image provided by Felix Bazgan.

Hot Topic #4: Mobile Food

One of the biggest challenges school foodservice’s face today is getting certain meals to students as quickly and efficiently as possible, which Cambro Manufacturing covered at their ANC booth.

Cambro provides a wide variety of mobile food solutions for breakfast, lunch and snack services. Three of their solutions included:

  • Versa Food Service System: Versatile food bar that can also be used for grab-n-go snacks or breakfast cart. These food bars are a part of the Let’s Move! Salad Bars to Schools program, which allows schools to apply for a free salad bar.
  • Mobile Vending Carts: Ideal for schools looking to expand operations, improve service and revenue
  • Grab-N-Go Flex Snack Cart: Mobile unit that is easy to move and set-up. (Contact a Central Product Consultant at 800-215-9293 if interested in this system).

Hot Topic #5: Thinking Out of the Box – Twitter Talk!

Social media played a huge role with this year’s ANC. On Twitter, everyone could follow everything in real time by using #ANC14 and can still go back to catch up on the discussion. Many on Twitter shared some of their unique ways to get students engaging.


 School Foodservice Equipment

Be sure to check out the school foodservice section of our website for equipment and supplies specifically for schools. Many products include special pricing or warranties exclusive to schools.