Health Policy

Middle School Students’ Perceptions of the Lunchroom: Implications for Future Interventions

Askelson, N.M.; Ryan, G.; Brady, P.; Meier, C.L.; Delger, P.; Scheidel, C.


The National School Lunch Program provides nutritious and inexpensive lunches, but low participation and food waste are challenges in many schools. Interventions aim to improve participation in the program, but little is known about how students’ perceptions affect their participation. This study explored how middle school students in a rural state perceive school food service staff, food served, and lunchroom atmosphere. An online survey was administered to middle school students at six schools participating in a larger lunchroom intervention. Mean perception scores were calculated for all measures. Multilevel logistic regression was used to examine the relationship between perceptions and consumption. Overall perceptions of staff, food, and atmosphere were positive, and students classified as school lunch eaters had more positive perceptions in all three areas than noneaters. Interventions to increase participation in school lunch programs and promote consumption of healthy food items should address multiple factors that contribute to school lunch participation.