My school attendance was pretty good when I was a kid. I remember hearing my name read by the teacher in the morning and raising my hand. I always knew the name that came before mine alphabetically and I would listen for it. I loved school, but I was quite shy.
Every couple years my family moved cross-country because my parents couldn’t decide where to live. As a result I had to navigate new schools and make a whole new set of friends. Going to school wasn’t too hard for me because I found learning fun in spite of having difficulty socially as a perpetual new student. I was lucky because my parents valued education and praised me for my good grades. My mom said, “you are going to college: you will love it,” while my dad said, “you can be the garbage man as long as you are happy.”
The experience of school lunch for a new kid is basically hell and it’s not about the food. Every day there was the stomach churning search for a friendly face. I dreaded lunch for the first couple weeks, but then I would establish a tentative friend group and it would get better. But at least I didn’t have to go to school for my best meal of the day. My parents were able to provide me with a bagged lunch when I wanted one and then would give me lunch money if I wanted to purchase hot lunch.
The reason I bring up attendance is that when Jamie Oliver changed school lunches in the UK, absences went down (among other good things). That makes sense when you think the students are healthier and are sick less frequently. But what if you conceptualize food as a reward? Knowing I could go to school and get a high quality meal might be enough to get me up and dressed if I was a kid who needed that kind of motivation.
Furthermore, did you know that schools get monies based on Average Daily Attendance (ADA)? One way to help your school obtain more funding is to boost attendance. Could more money be a side benefit of better school lunches? How funny would it be if during roll call students said “Here! I’m here for the food!”