Saturday, April 15, 2017

Classroom Food Cart

Have you heard of classrooms having food carts or coffee businesses but don't know how to get one started? Here is how we run the food cart at our school.

We start off every school year with free samples...this is how we get everyone hooked. We set up a station in the front office and send out an email letting everyone know. We also put out a food donation sign up sheet in case anyone wants to donate store bought or homemade goodies.
This is what our food cart looks like today but this is not where we started :). When we first started we had our local grocery store donate coffee, teachers donated snacks and we had a tiny cart. After a few years, grants and donations I can say we have a pretty awesome little business.
The purpose of the food cart is for our students to develop and practice skills in the following areas: social norms, communication, money and team building.

We take the cart out every Wednesday and Friday. I work in a pretty large school (800 students) so we have 6 special education teachers in my building. Out of that, 4 of us manage the food cart. We have a group of students who price and stock it, we have a group that works with a teacher on ordering, I make the coffee (which is funny because I am the only one who doesn't drink it) and another teacher handles all of the money.

We are so fortunate to have had this awesome coffee maker and carafes donated. It's super easy. I my amazing paras plug it in and wait for it to heat up. Once it's ready we pop the coffee in, put the carafe under and pour in the pitcher of water. In about 3 minutes we have perfectly brewed coffee.
I store all of the coffee next to the maker on my counter. They are usually large bags so I make sure to secure them with binder clips so the coffee doesn't taste stale.....had that complaint once 😁. We also got a HUGE thing of coffee filters 2 years ago and we haven't purchased any since. I honestly think we will be set for 3-4 more years lol.

I change out the labels for the carafes when needed. We don't do anything fancy here, just computer paper, marker and masking tape. I am sure you could get a little more creative here if you wanted to :)
We also have all of these yummy snacks and drinks on the cart. We price everything for $1.00 (coffee is $0.75) to make the change making process easier. If you have students with higher level math skills play around with the prices to make it more challenging for your kids.

This cash register is a new addition this year. It has been great to store money in it (we used to put it in a coffee cup) and use the calculator portion.
Now that the coffee is made and the cart is stocked we are ready to take it out. I have a few students who need walkers to get around. The cart is PERFECT for them to push :) The students take the cart from classroom to classroom. This is where the magic happens!!! 
All of my students who take the cart out are non-verbal. They have gained so many skills through this process. They knock on the door and use the pre-made communication device. Check it out here. 
We used GoTalk Lite to create these. That is why we have a British accent for our boys...if you pay for it there are many voice options. 

The teachers then come out and tell the kids what they would like. Depending on what the kids are working on they will take over the order (getting coffee, making change, finding the items, talking with the staff member etc.).

The coffee cart has been AWESOME!!! for the students and staff at my school. Here are a few testimonials from staff members at my school. 

"I love having the food cart come by, not because of the food ( though it's  good) the best part is seeing students learn how to work with money and help others. The staff that works with these students are so patient."

"I love the food cart for various reasons. Not only do we get a nice little surprise visit for a delicious snack, but it's so nice to see our students leading within this initiative. Whether asking if we are interested or handling money and selling items, students are in charge of the sales and exhibit leadership qualities and handle the responsibilities wonderfully. My students also enjoy having them stop by. It gives us a brief moment to stop, visit, extend our hellos, and share in a brief, yet kind moment of interaction that we normally don't get to share within the hectic school day. It's a moment where students get to see how we can support one another and help each other's causes just by purchasing a small item. I love it."

"I love the food cart because I like seeing my former students and interacting with them. It's fun to see their social progress."

"I love the interactions and real-life application these students receive when working/learning with the food cart."

"It is a very positive learning tool for everyone!"

We use the money that we earn from the coffee cart to purchase more items. It is all self funded. If we have money at the end of the year we put enough aside to place the first order for the next year and then all of the left over money we use to put into other projects at our school (kids needing coats, Christmas gifts, toiletries for students etc.). 

I have found that running the cart the way we do is super simple. There isn't much that goes into it (once you have it up and running). At the end of the year we also have a MONSTER SALE to get ride of everything. The teachers LOVE this.
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  1. This looks like such a great idea! And, I like that some of your students working with this have mobility problems - I will be teaching in a new MDS class in my district in the fall, and several of the students have mobility issues. This will be an idea to put in my 'future activities' folder for sure. Thank you for sharing.

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  4. Do you have any of you inventory and stocking lessons plans available?