Where To Buy School Cafeteria Food: Top Vendors and Delicious Picks

Because kids need nutritious food to help them learn.

Collage of school cafeteria food, including a breakfast waffle tray and square pepperoni pizzas
We Are Teachers; Chartwells; Food Service Direct

These days, an overwhelming number of kids rely on schools for both breakfast and lunch during the school week. That means it’s incredibly important for schools to provide nutritious options, without breaking the bank. Wondering where to buy school cafeteria food and what to buy? Here are some popular options.

How To Choose School Cafeteria Food Vendors

When it comes to finding places to buy school cafeteria food, you can choose from national, statewide, or local vendors. Some schools choose to outsource the whole process (buying, cooking, serving, and cleanup) to companies that specialize in school food service.

Not surprisingly, people have a lot of opinions about the food that schools serve in their cafeterias. Start by making smaller purchases of items from a new vendor, then having a taste test with your students and staff. There’s no point in offering fish sticks and brussels sprouts if no one’s willing to eat them.

When possible, choose local vendors. This usually ensures the freshest produce and baked goods, and it helps get the community more interested in its schools. Most states maintain lists of recommended or approved vendors, so start there first to see what your best options are.

Also, be sure to familiarize yourself with school meal programs like the National School Lunch Program. Most schools and many students are eligible for subsidized or free meals, but you’ll need to meet specific nutrition requirements to receive the money.

Companies That Provide Complete Meals or Food Service for Schools

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These vendors can supply complete meals for students every day or even handle your entire school cafeteria program. This includes staffing, sourcing ingredients, maintaining the cafeteria, and more.

Aramark

This well-known school cafeteria vendor provides complete food service, including purchasing, marketing, staffing, and maintenance. They ensure school menus are in compliance with nutritional guidelines while providing fun foods that kids actually want to eat. Aramark also provides digital solutions to help schools and students get the healthy meals they need.

Disposable plate with carton of milk, waffles with berries, granola, butter, and utensils
Chartwells via Instagram

Chartwells

Currently serving more than 4,000 schools across the United States, Chartwells provides a complete cafeteria experience. They can help you design menus, source the ingredients needed, and even supply staff and training. Chartwells focuses on giving kids healthy and interesting foods that they’ll enjoy eating. They can even guide schools in creating cafeteria spaces that encourage good nutrition.

Sandwich, fries, and pickles in a basket
Opaa! via Instagram

Opaa!

This food service company serves hundreds of schools in Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Nebraska, Illinois, and Iowa. They create healthy versions of kid-favorite menu items like pizza and chicken and waffles. Opaa strives to provide good food choices for adult staff members, too, and is happy to work with schools to provide nutrition education.

OrganicLife

This full-service company says its goal is to “treat school lunch with the respect and precision of a 4-star restaurant.” They can help schools create a branded food-court-style cafeteria experience, providing students with unique choices for healthy, nutritious meals.

School lunch tray with broccoli, chicken salad, orange, and a carton of milk
Revolution Foods via Instagram

Revolution Foods

If you’re looking for a variety of school food service options, try Revolution Foods. They can provide individual meals, prepackaged items, or buffet-style dining. This company prides itself on prioritizing fresh, healthy ingredients, working closely with students and staff to serve meals and snacks to support folks throughout the school day.

Baked potato with cheese, scallions, sour cream, and other toppings
Sodexo via Facebook

Sodexo

This company’s school food service division strives to provide unique culinary experiences, tailored by age and region. They have different food programs for elementary, middle, and high school students, all focusing on nutrition and balanced meals. They work to source ingredients locally, along with providing complete menus and trained staff.

Nashville hot chicken sandwich with waffle fries
Whitsons Culinary Group via Instagram

Whitsons Culinary Group

If you’d like help managing your school cafeteria but don’t want to lose control over your menus and staffing, Whitsons might be a good solution. They serve schools in the northeastern United States, and their goal is to work with schools to provide a customized experience for each one. They can help school cafeterias save money and improve their nutritional quality.

School Cafeteria Food Vendors

When you need kitchen staples, frozen foods, and baked goods, try these top vendors. We’ve even included some of our favorite picks that are sure to be student favorites!

Close up of a cinnamon swirl roll from Bake Crafters, a school cafeteria food choice
Bake Crafters

Bake Crafters

With over 30 years in the school food service business, Bake Crafters focuses on offering smart, wholesome snacks and baked goods. They also partner with Sal’s Pizza to provide delicious choices for pizza day.

Our pick: Cinnamon Swirls

Rectangular individual pizza typically served as part of school lunches in the U.S.
FoodServiceDirect.com

FoodServiceDirect.com

When you need bulk cooking supplies or frozen foods, this is the place to go. They’ve got everything from flour and sugar to condiments and beverages. You’ll have to look closely at nutrition info to find the healthiest choices, but you’ll find lots of options here (including that classic “school pizza” that’s been around for decades!).

Our pick: Schwans Tony’s Whole-Grain Pepperoni Pizza

Popcorners variety pack box with multiple snack-sized bags of chips
Gordon Food Service

Gordon Food Service

In addition to providing a wide range of ingredients and prepared foods, Gordon Food Service (GFS) also offers consulting services to help schools plan nutritious and interesting menus for students. Their technology tools make it easier to get what you need when you need it.

Our pick: PopCorners Variety Pack

Zee Zee's Blueberry Lemon Soft Baked Bar, offered for school cafeteria food choices
National Food Group

National Food Group

This vendor serves a wide variety of concessions, with a special section dedicated to K-12 school cafeterias. They make a point of emphasizing healthier choices, like their Zee Zee’s individually wrapped snacks. They can also help you accommodate food allergies and special diets.

Our pick: Zee Zee’s Blueberry Lemon Soft Baked Bars

Sweet potato waffle fries with powdered sugar and a glass of orange juice
Sysco

Sysco

Among this company’s wide range of products you’ll find plenty of bulk ingredients and frozen prepared foods. Have everything you need delivered right to your school, with regularly scheduled shipments that make planning a breeze.

Our pick: Battered Sweet Potato Waffle Fries

Vegetable lasagna piece served on a white plate, as one option for school cafeteria food picks
US Foods

US Foods

This nationwide food distributor offers all the staples you need, plus beverages, paper products, and more. Their huge selection means schools can provide a variety of healthy, yummy breakfast, lunch, and snack choices for students.

Our pick: Molly’s Kitchen Vegetable Lasagna

Bonus Option: National Farm to School Network

This hub helps schools find local farms to supply fresh produce, meat, eggs, and more. They also coordinate school education and gardening programs, so kids develop a connection to the foods they eat. While they don’t sell cafeteria food directly, NFSN is a terrific resource for schools looking to make healthy menu choices.

Infographic with statistics about school cafeteria meal services.
We Are Teachers

Still have questions about where to buy school cafeteria food? Drop by the Principal Life group on Facebook to discuss it with others.

Plus, check out The Best Playground Equipment for Schools (and Where To Buy It)!