Topic 2 – Mealtime Guidance for Schools

Schools play a key role in creating a relaxed and enjoyable mealtime environment which can help young people to learn to like new foods.

This information is intended to help the staff and volunteers who will be supervising meals, feel confident and comfortable in their role.

We have created infographics with more information. You might like to print and display these around your staff room or in classrooms where meals will be served.

If you have further questions, feel free to contact your School Food Matters project officer.

How do I encourage children to eat the meal provided?

We recommend that schools take a pressure-free approach to mealtimes. This means trusting that students will know how much they need to eat and allowing them to eat as much or as little as they are hungry for, without comment.

For more information on pressure-free mealtimes, see Pressure Free Mealtimes.

This approach to feeding is informed by the Division of Responsibility, which is an evidence-based framework.

For more evidence on this approach, read this Trust Childrens’ Appetites.

If I am not encouraging students to eat or try new foods, what is my role?

We understand that it might feel uncomfortable at first to not comment on what children are eating. But you still play a very important role!

During lunch, try to keep the atmosphere as relaxed, social and positive as possible.

For tips on how to do this, see this Keep Mealtimes Enjoyable.

When students take the lead in deciding how much they participate in a meal, they have the freedom to explore foods at their own pace. Research suggests that children who have positive experiences with food grow up to eat a wider range of nutritious foods.

For more information about how to let students take the lead at mealtimes, see this Let Students Take the Lead at Lunch.

How do I help students come to lunch, calm and relaxed?

Creating a regular routine helps students to know what to expect and what is expected of them at lunchtime. This can help them to feel relaxed and come to the meal ready to eat.

For tips on creating a relaxed school lunch environment, see this Lunchtime Routine.


What do I do if students participating in the School Lunch Project still bring lunch from home?

Some families with a child participating in the School Food Matters lunch project will continue to send a packed lunch to school. This is not needed, but it is also not a problem. It’s important that students are not made to feel like they have done anything wrong if they are still bringing lunch to school.

If students do not feel comfortable to eat the lunch that is served, they should not be restricted from eating the food they have brought from home. We recommend having a 10-minute period where participating students can only eat the the School Lunch Project food. This gives students plenty of time to be exposed to the food without distraction and to eat if they would like to.

After this time, students should be allowed to access the food brought from home .

What do I do at lunchtime if I have a mix of students who are participating and not participating in the project?

If your class has some students that are not participating in the project, it is important that they are still included in the mealtime routine while eating food from their lunchbox.

We would not recommend seating these students separately. They should not be ‘punished’ for not participating – and seeing their friends enjoy a delicious meal may be enough to entice some students to give the lunches a try!