Introduction

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The Comfortable Cafeteria is one of several model programs developed as a part of the Every Moment Counts. The focus is on embedding strategies to help all children and youth participate and enjoy eating lunch and socializing with friends and adults.

Time spent in the cafeteria is an important part of the school day for students to enjoy their meal, take a break from classroom work and enjoy conversations with friends. When the cafeteria environment is pleasant, students eat more of their lunch, do better in their academic work, have fewer behavioral problems, and feel more connected to their school.

The purpose of this program is to create a positive cafeteria environment by providing the cafeteria staff and students with the necessary knowledge, skills, and resources needed to sustain a comfortable cafeteria throughout the school year.

Use the resources provided in this section of the website to help you:

  • Learn about this program
  • Hear what staff and students say about it (video clips)
  • Learn how to implement the program – Just do it! Weekly Lesson Plan
  • Download bookmarks, posters, and other materials for implementation
  • Read about the research outcomes

Download and share a copy of the Comfortable Cafeteria Information Brief

Program developed by: Louise Demirjian, MA, OTR/L, Fran Horvath, OTR/L and Susan Bazyk, PhD, OTR/L (2014)
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Vision Statement

Our school will provide pleasant and positive mealtimes so that all students will enjoy eating food and socializing with friends and adults.

About the Program

Based on an outcome study1 of implementation in several school districts, significant positive changes in student perceptions of their lunchtime experience after just 6 weeks were found, including improvements in:
1) Experiencing lunchtime as enjoyable, especially in children that initially did not enjoy lunch
2) Thinking that other children are friendly
3) Perceiving cafeteria supervisors as more friendly and helpful
4) Having enjoyable mealtime conversations
5) Cafeteria supervisors feeling more prepared to do their jobs based on what they learned during the program

Sustain it! Maintain a positive cafeteria culture!
Following the 6-week program, it is our hope that school staff and students will commit to sustaining a positive cafeteria environment by using the resources provided on this website.

1 Bazyk, S., Demirjian, L., Horvath, F., & Doxsey, L. (2018). The Comfortable Cafeteria program for promoting student participation and enjoyment: An outcome study. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 74 (3), 1-9, https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot2018.02379
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10 Steps to Success

The 10 Steps described below help you gear up for and provide the program from start to finish.

Based on our experience, there are
3 major phases involved in providing this program:
1) Gearing up to start the program (Steps 1 through 6; should take 2-4 weeks). These steps are not necessarily sequential - they are often pursued simultaneously. This phase involves the program facilitator(s) and other committed staff reading about cafeteria best practices, meeting relevant stakeholders (cafeteria supervisors), developing a plan of action (e.g. beginning with one grade level), obtaining principal support, and selling/marketing the program to the school.
2) Doing it (Steps 7 and 8). Each of the 6 weeks has themed activities and instructions for implementation outlined in a lesson plan.
3) Sustaining the results and expanding to other grades in the school (Steps 9 and10).

Let’s get started! Click each step below for specific instructions and downloadable materials.

Just do it! The 6 week Lesson Plans & Materials

After you've read the 'Ten steps to success' and oriented the cafeteria supervisors, you're ready to begin the program! For each week of the program, in the section below, you will obtain:

1) The weekly theme and goals
2) Weekly Lesson Plan with detailed instructions for what to do before and during the session
3) Links to the supporting materials, including bookmarks, posters, handouts, and reputable websites

Note: This program is geared for primary students, grades K through 4. You can use it as a guide for older students, but we suggest making the materials and activities developmentally appropriate for the students. For ideas on what to do with middle school students (grades 5 - 8), refer to the Cool Cafe′ toolkit below.

Suggestion: Feel free to be creative and implement the program in a way that uniquely 'fits' your setting and the age group. Modify activities as needed to make them developmentally appropriate.

Have fun implementing the program! Spread the joy!

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Cool Cafe': Modifications for Middle School Students

The Cool Cafe′ materials were developed to be used alongside the Comfortable Cafeteria program in order to consider the age-related social-emotional and lunchtime needs of middle school students (grades 5th through 8th).

Guided by the weekly Comfortable Cafeteria themes, six newsletters with collateral materials (e.g. activities, information sheets) were developed to provide user-friendly information for cafeteria supervisors on the specific developmental and health needs of middle school students. For example, students are encouraged to think about and discuss topics such as peer group challenges, mental health, dating and relationships, respecting differences, including others, healthy eating and body image.

The 6 Cool Cafe′ Newsletters and collateral materials are:
Week #1: Meeting the Needs of Middle School Students; Cool Cafe′ coloring sheet
Week #2: Friendship; Conversation jar; Friendship challenge
Week #3: Mealtime Manners and Conversations; Suggested Activities (conversation starters)
Week #4: Including Others and Respecting Differences
Week #5: Understanding our Sensory Needs; 5 Senses of the Cafeteria
Week #6: Promoting Healthy Eating

Download a pdf of the combined newsletters here.

Research Outcomes

A pretest post-test outcome study was used to obtain supervisor and  student perceptions of their cafeteria experiences following implementation of the Comfortable Cafeteria program.

Publication:
Bazyk, S., Demirjian, L., Horvath, F., & Doxsey, L. (2018). The Comfortable Cafeteria program for promoting student participation and enjoyment: An outcome study. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 74 (3), 1-9, https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot2018.02379