Student and Adult Roles at Mealtimes in School

Help make meal and snack times enjoyable for all

Mealtime Roles fact sheet

Are you concerned about foods your students eat at school?

Teachers care deeply about their students and often worry about the foods students eat at school.  This worry can add extra stress to a teacher’s already demanding day.

Our resource “Mealtime Roles” outlines how teachers, students and parents/caregivers can all help to make eating times more enjoyable. This resource is based on The Satter Division of Responsibility* which was created by Dietitian Ellyn Satter. This approach to feeding has been thoroughly researched and is recommended by groups such as Dietitians of Canada.   

It can help support students in the long-term process of learning to make food choices and to eat a variety of foods.  

Schools decide when and where food is eaten.

Students decide whether and how much to eat from the food available.

In addition to following the Division of Responsibility in schools, teachers can help create a safe and respectful food environment for their students by following these tips:

  • Keep conversations around food neutral. Resist categorizing student food choices as “good or bad”.
  • Avoid comparing students’ snacks or lunches. 
  • Trust students to decide whether or not to eat. Respect their decisions about how much to eat and believe them when they say they are full.
  • Recognize that many factors influence a caregiver’s ability to purchase and prepare meals and snacks for their child such as culture, preferences, food skills and income.
  • Speak to your school guidance counselor about facilitating a conversation with the parent or caregiver if you suspect a student does not have access to enough food.
  • Learn more about the Division of Responsibility by accessing the website

This article was reviewed by the Ellyn Satter Institute.

*Ellyn Satter Institute. 2019. The division of responsibility in feeding. Accessed January 22, 2021.  

Order our free poster (11X17 inches) for your classroom, lunchroom, or cafeteria or download our fact sheet.


Multi level
Food environment