a cafeteria designed for me: IDEO reinvents the school food system
all images courtesy IDEO




imagine, that you’re back in 8th grade. having pre-ordered your lunch online the night before, you grab a brown bag from the rolling cart—no lines. your lunch is fresh, as it’s been sourced from local suppliers and cooked in a communal kitchen. you and your friends devour it on beanbags. on your way out, you pick up a dinner kit for your family. according to IDEO and SFUSD, that’s how they imagine a typical school lunch.


the lunch experience introduces topics such as central warehouse & local sourcing, space renovation, dinner kits, community kitchen and even smart meal technology into the system redesign. to learn more on the initiative, see here.
a cafeteria designed for me: IDEO reinvents the school food system



working together with the san francisco unified school district, IDEO developed recommendations for three age-appropriate dining experiences, from communal eating to student-designed spaces to new technology platforms. conceived to address the operational deficit, the system was developed as a robust business model—considering thousands of data points, like the cost-per-meal of a delivery truck route and where the ketchup was placed in cafeteria. federal, state, and local regulations were taken into account, as well as operational and labor constraints.


the team worked alongside more than 1,300 students, parents, union leaders, nutrition staff, board commissioners, principals, teachers, and community groups to create a better cafeteria experience.

a cafeteria designed for me: IDEO reinvents the school food system



central warehouse & local sourcing
a central warehouse enables SFUSD to source local, fresh, and diverse food for our middle and high schools and manage inventory centrally.


space renovation
each semester or once a year, groups of students get to redesign the cafeteria. sfusd can partner with local furniture suppliers and space planning companies to upgrade cafeteria spaces in middle and high schools.


dinner kits
student nutrition extends its offerings beyond school meals and taps into new sources of revenue. by being a member of the sfusd dinner program, students can pick up take-home meal kits equipped with all the ingredients and recipies needed to make a nutritious family dinner. 

a cafeteria designed for me: IDEO reinvents the school food system



community kitchen
the community kitchen connects SFUSD with the san francisco food community through menu planning and staff and chef training programs.


communal eating
in elementary schools, students sit around circular tables, learn to serve one another, and discover foods together. staff serve courses off of a cart. with food served in stages, students eat more of every dish, and they no longer have to wait in line.


online portal
a central crowd-funded platform enables the greater community to connect with school food programs.



video courtesy nastasha tan



learning layer
food in the cafeteria is integrated with the curriculum. students receive a richer experience by learning about the food ecosystem through gardening programs, visits to local farms, and composting facilities.


smart meal technology
an interactive system enables students to pre-order meals, provide feedback, set dietary preferences, and learn about food. this generates data that makes the entire system more efficient and tailored. an integrated loyalty program rewards pupils for healthy choices.

a cafeteria designed for me: IDEO reinvents the school food system



regional kitchen & centralized prep
existing kitchens can be renovated and production centralized for sfusd-produced food at our middle and high schools.


vending machines & mobile carts
improve participation in high schools and middle schools by placing vending machines and mobile carts at key hot spots. students get convenient access to nutritious reimbursable meals or healthy a la carte items.