An extensive renovation of the Englewood High School cafeteria in Florida’s Duval County Public School District included doubling the number of serving lines from two to four, upgrading the equipment and finishes, and installing new furniture, paint and décor. As a result, before schools closed due to COVID-19 in spring 2020, participation had increased 27%, from about 750 to an average of 1,000 students per day, a positive result that should translate to when classes resume this fall.
Last year, as students returned to in-person learning, the visible lines and efficient layout allowed staff to quickly and safely serve, with students taking an average of 30 seconds to walk through the line and choose their food. This spring, despite some students still learning virtually, participation was still running 20% higher than before the renovation.
Increasing participation in the school meal program may also be having a positive effect on the health of Englewood High School students. According to Dariush Mozaffarian, co-author of the recent study released by JAMA, “Schools are now the single healthiest place Americans are eating. This finding is particularly timely given widespread school closures over the last year from COVID-19.”
Englewood High School is one of several renovations done in the district in partnership with foodservice provider Chartwells K12 to reinvest foodservice funds into the meal program. At Englewood, Duval Schools and Chartwells K12 teams and contractors collaborated on the $1 million renovation that included a $400,000 equipment investment.
Among project highlights are the Ram Station theme—inspired by the school's mascot and using the school colors—that makes the cafeteria a true extension of the school and a social gathering place for students to enjoy nutritious food while connecting with each other in an open concept space that delivers a more retail and college-like experience than is typical of high school cafeterias.
Meanwhile, a more productive layout in the serving area and new serving line equipment allow for greater menu variety and more grab-and-go options.
"Students can move through serving lines more quickly so the school can serve more students and the students can have more time to eat," observes Sherylette Johnson, contract compliance inspector for the district.
The new serving lines feature integrated beverage merchandising for milk and other a la carte beverage selections and allow staff to present both hot and cold entrees and side dishes simultaneously, thus allowing for more customization, expanded menu choices and flexibility.
Each of the four lines focus on different culinary concepts, giving the cafeteria an elevated food hall feel. The include 2Mato, with its menu of pizza and daily specials such as stromboli and calzones; You Build It, with customizable, made-to-order wraps, bowls and tacos; Chicken Pickin’, with its chicken sandwiches, tenders, bites and salads; and Butcher & Baker, offering pre-made, grab-and-go salads and sandwiches.