School Lunch Count Ideas for Elementary Teachers (Grades 1-5) in 2024

Each school has its own method for handling student lunch orders. Ideally, there is a 3rd party responsible for managing the finances involved, but sometimes schools operate using a cash/check only method. It is always in a teacher’s best interest not to handle money. Having families pre-pay will help. Consider mentioning this at open house and sending a letter home explaining how to pre-pay. Alternatively, you can set a classroom policy that requires the students to remain responsible for their money by taking it to the cafeteria themselves.

Even when there are no money transactions involved, the classroom teacher is often still responsible for communicating a lunch count to the cafeteria. The goal should be to decrease the amount of class time used to collect lunch orders and to create a system that limits disruption. Below are some school lunch count ideas to help with that!

3 School Lunch Count Ideas

Below are 3 school lunch count ideas for elementary teachers.

1. Communicate with Families

Explain the procedures related to taking school lunch count at the open house and send a letter home explaining it as well. This will alleviate any confusion and help the process run smoother in your classroom so all students get what they need.

2. Consider How You Need to Report Lunch Count

Consider how the cafeteria requires you to report the lunch count. Do they just want the total number of students ordering each choice (i.e. 5 hot dogs, 9 pizzas, 2 salads and 1 milk)? Do they need to know each child’s specific choice (i.e. Joe Smith: pizza, Carly Jacobs: hot dog). The answer to those questions will help you find a system that work best for you. I do recommend that you find a method that is non-verbal and prevents disruption to the morning routine once students start reading or completing morning work.

If you are required to record the lunch choice together with the student’s name you will want to save time by keeping their selections in the order in which they are listed on your roster. In this situation, a printable chart works best. Students can check their choice or you, a volunteer or a student helper can be in charge of doing it. You can also save time by taking attendance and lunch count at the same time.

3. Make the Menu Choices Visible

Make the menu choices visible so you do not need to read a list and repeat yourself often. Using a white board, projectable menu, pocket chart or poster will allow students to see the choices on their own. It is helpful to add pictures to the posted choices. This can be done using clipart, images found online or actual photos taken in your school cafeteria.

In my classroom, I posted the lunch choices on the board next to a hanging display reading choice 1, choice 2, choice 3, lunchbox and milk. The students selected their choice using a clip with their name on it. You can grab all of the printables I used for managing my lunch count in my classroom management bundle or by themselves in my lunch count resource.

Classroom management resource

We hope you found these school lunch count ideas helpful! If you did, then you may also be interested in these posts:

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