Knowledge is Power! Find Out What Your Students Think About Their Food Via a Survey

In the day-to-day operation of a food service department, we must ask a very important question: “What do our customers think about our food?” This is such a powerful question, yet one that in the hustle and bustle can sometimes be forgotten. It’s time to prioritize this question as it could lead to some powerful answers and action items.

What our customers think of the product and services we provide really does matter. The reason is simple – people make choices with their actions. If they like something, they will try to replicate that experience by repeating the choices that led to that outcome. If the experience did not meet their expectations, then they might be a little apprehensive to purchase the next time around.

And ultimately, one of your goals is likely to increase participation in your school breakfast and lunch programs. Aiming for improvement should be a conversation that is had on a regular basis within your department. One way to get insight on how to improve any experience is to ask for customer feedback.

Results from Sampling Students

Recently I surveyed a group of K-12 students who attend my local assembly. I asked, “How do you feel when you think about your school lunch?” and “How do you feel about the food options offered at your school?” To my surprise, the results were quite varied. Some students raved about their school lunch program, while the others gave me blank stares and did not share that same enthusiasm about their lunch program.

What made one student smile when asked about the food provided by their school, while others were indifferent and sometimes just plain disappointed? How can we get the insight we need to improve our school lunch programs?

How to Conduct a Survey

Food service departments can gain helpful insight into how the students feel about the food that is being provided. Information is gold, but it must first be mined. Gathering this helpful information is made easier with a survey.

  • Ask specific but simple questions – try not to overcomplicate the question.
  • Ask open-ended questions – this will give you a better chance at viewing their true feelings about a topic.
  • Keep the number of questions to a minimum – no more than 5-7 questions, so as not to take up too much of their time.
  • Use some type of ordinal data survey – easy enough that they can relate to, but will be able to give an accurate assessment of their thoughts. Some examples of ordinal data that could work for students would be using emojis, a 1-10, or a yes, no, maybe setup.
  • Consider whether you will post the survey online or whether it will be done via pencil and paper.
Creating an Age-Appropriate Survey

Emojis have become an international, non-verbal language. You might consider developing a simplistic survey with emoji options as responses, which can make filling out the survey fun and relatable for students of a certain age, while giving you the ability to obtain more accurate information.

However, as you move up the grade levels the complexity of the questions can be increased, but staying with a simplistic format is still important. Your middle school and high school kids are the kings and queens of expressing themselves digitally. So do not be afraid to be a little playful when trying connect to their true feelings about your program.

Questions to Ask:
  • How do your students feel about your school’s lunch program?
  • What aspect do they enjoy or avoid?
  • What helps them make their food decisions?
  • How can their information be used to improve their experience in the cafeteria?
Put Survey Results to Good Use

Whatever stage your program is in, the My K12 Resource team has resources and advice that can help you implement and tabulate surveys to improve student enjoyment of school lunches.

Knowledge is power, and knowledge can lead to profitability for your department! When the average student is consuming 5-10 of their meals a week at school, there is a great responsibility to not only provide nutritious and well-balanced but enjoyable meals for our students.

Are you ready to take the leap into becoming the superhero of the cafeteria? Let’s provide those indifferent students with a reason to smile about the lunches provided for them. More resources and services can be found at