Design Competition Aims To Improve The School Lunch Experience

Jan 21, 2014

What can be done to improve the school lunch experience? That’s the question behind a new ideas competition in Seattle aimed at fighting child obesity and diabetes.

The Redesigning the School Lunch Experience competition offers a range of practical and playful solutions to inspire kids to make healthier food choices.

"Children spend an hour a day every weekday in their lives in a cafeteria," said Katherine Wimble, associate director of Design in Public, a nonprofit group with the Seattle chapter of the American Institute of Architects. "This is about seeing what innovative ideas could transform the whole experience so they can make healthier choices."   

Designers from 16 countries have submitted ideas, and their visions include using big red cubes as furniture. The walls of the cubes feature printed materials that teach kids about nutrition.

Another idea involves transforming the lunch tray into a bento box. Each container is a different color, so kids can learn not only about the different food groups but also about portion control. 

One of the people who's taken an interest in the competition is Stephen Murakami, director of planning and construction for Tacoma Public Schools, who is helping judge the entries.

Some schools have as many as four different lunch periods, he says, "so it's more about getting the herd through, fed and out. I’d really love the opportunity to see what we could be doing differently."

Fourteen new cafeterias are slated to be rebuilt in Tacoma. It's part of a renovation project of 14 schools over the next decade, the result of a $500 million bond passed last year.   

The competition winners will be announced at a public forum on Jan. 28.