Up to this year, Hilton Head High School, part of the Beaufort County (SC) School District, operated its lunch schedule like most high schools in this country. Each class paraded through the cafeteria, crowding the servery to get their food and then gobble it down while chatting up friends, all in a constricted 25-minute lunch period. When they left, the next troupe crowded in.
But starting this September 2nd, the dynamic has changed totally. Instead of several 25-minute lunch periods with successive groups of students, there is now a single 50-minute period that is designated an “independent learning period” for all of the school’s 1,300 students.
The doubled time allows students to take a real break while getting together on peer projects, studying and speaking with teachers. The single period also allows lunch to be positioned at, well, lunch time instead of scattered from mid-morning to mid-afternoon.
Of course, this alternative model has also required some changes from the nutrition services department. In order to accommodate students who now are allowed to scatter around the building rather than stay in the cafeteria, the department has deployed three kiosks around the premises, and also opened a new c-store where both reimbursable meals and selected a la carte items are sold.
“We offer as much self-serve as possible so we can get them through the line quickly,” says Roberta Edwards, general manager for onsite service solutions with contract management company Sodexo, which operates foodservice at Hilton Head High.
The kiosk carts each have a different menu, so they serve as mini destination restaurants, while the cafeteria has everything the carts offer as well as a self-serve salad bar and pizza (pizza was initially tried on a kiosk cart but the demand overwhelmed the capacity).
Lunch participation is up modestly and sits around 76% while a la carte sales at the school, which has an approximately 32% free/reduced enrollment, has tripled to over $520 a day.