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Student-led design transforms dining spaces & experience across Oasis Academies

Student-led design transforms dining spaces & experience across Oasis Academies

Involving students in the design of school food counter backdrops, menu board graphics and eye-catching posters for their spaces helps to increase the appeal and uptake of school meals. Read the article to find out how where our pupils eat has become as important as what they eat.

A full calendar of dining hall makeovers shaped by the pupils themselves has seen almost 50 Sodexo-catered Oasis Academies undergo transformations this summer.

Involving pupils in the design of school food counter backdrops, menu board graphics and eye-catching posters for their spaces helps to increase the appeal and uptake of school meals.

Where our pupils eat has become as important as what they eat

What makes families flock to Nandos? Why is Pizza Hut popular with young people? Strong food brands build reputation and customer loyalty with an intelligent combination of tasty fresh food, efficient service and great ambience. Gathering insights from customers ensures the food industry fully meets their needs – and school dining halls are no different.

With students increasingly engaged with high street brands and trends, school dining halls are developing to mirror these favoured formulas. It’s a change that touches both the food options available, and the surroundings. The best dining experiences should appeal to all the senses, and while the smells and tastes that entice our students in to eat are undoubtedly crucial, visual appeal also has a big role to play.

Benefits of improving students' dining experience

Creating spaces where students can take a break from the school day can have a positive impact on them, teachers and the overall learning experience.

The health and wellness benefits extend beyond just eating nutritious food – a relaxed lunchtime means happier students who'll return to class refreshed and ready to engage with the afternoon's learning experience.

So, what makes a good dining experience for students?

How can we create school dining room environments that deliver a relaxed experience with good acoustics? A place that is bright, clean and fresh – somewhere students can feel happy, healthy and comfortable?

Rosemary Molinari, Marketing Manager for Sodexo Schools, said "Pupils respond positively to school dining environments that reflect their age and provide a relaxed space for socialising with friends."

"In-depth research we conducted with key stage 2 to 4 pupils showed they want lunchtimes to provide a stress-free break from classrooms and the academic day. They told us they love to eat in a contemporary, colourful and food-oriented space, with information that is interesting, helpful and relevant – a personalised dining hall that reflects their school’s culture."

Improving the dining experience with Agents for Change

Armed with this research, Rosemary has trailblazed a new strategic plan for school menu and environment planning, with student panels taking the lead as ‘Agents for Change’.

The latest mission for the Agents has put them at the heart of Sodexo’s makeover of almost 50 dining halls across our academies this summer. A group of 600 students –12 Agents from each academy representing their peers – took part in a fun and interactive workshop, transforming food counters, tills and walls using Sodexo’s Food & Co brand toolkit packed with a choice of colour options, patterns, fonts and graphics.

“Agents for Change aligns with DfE feedback that school dining improvement – both food and environment – should be through the eyes of young people,” says Rosemary.

A flexible brand book helps to structure the session, and is designed to fire young imaginations, spark debate and inspire them to create a dining area that is their own social space and reflects their specialisms, ethos and community. “Levels of satisfaction with the end result are high. Pupils love how their ideas have been interpreted by our creative designers and have told us they feel calmer and safer in their new dining rooms,” says Rosemary.

Watch the video HERE to understand the involvement of Agents for Change and the impact of the dining hall experiences

Returning to transformed spaces for the new term

This summer’s makeover programme across the Oasis Academy family was fully funded by Sodexo and is aimed to help encourage more children to take a healthy daily meal in a relaxed personalised setting.

At Oasis Academy Ryelands in the heart of Croydon, Agents for Change worked together to select the below colours, graphics and messages, and have returned for a new term to see how their work has come to life during the break.

Glenn Lillo, Principal at Oasis Academy Ryelands, commented on the transformation saying; "We are thrilled with the bright and welcoming design that our pupils and Sodexo chose. At Oasis we are committed to the academic achievement of pupils, and we know the importance a healthy and nutritious school lunch provides in helping boost learning outcomes."

Daniel Marsh