The Cafeteria Crusader

"If you have an idea, go for it—no matter how silly it sounds. You never know how big a change it can bring." - Alex Castillo

Inti St. Clair/Getty Images for Scholastic

Alex Castillo was fed up with his school’s lunch options. So he took action!

Enchiladas with oily cheese and flavorless tortillas. Foot-long mystery-meat hot dogs drowned in chili. Lukewarm chicken nuggets. As Alex Castillo stared down at his lunch options at Southwest Academy in San Antonio, Texas, last September, the high school senior felt frustrated. He had spent all summer trying to exercise and eat healthier. How was he supposed to stay on track when his cafeteria offered only greasy entreés and junk food?

Like the 30 million kids nationwide who get school lunches daily, Alex and his classmates were dependent on what the school served. But while many of his peers resorted to filling up on sugary or salty snacks, Alex took action. Over the course of five months, he convinced his school administration to bring a salad bar to campus. How did he make it happen? Read his tips and get inspired!

 Work with your school. 

When you’re frustrated, you may be tempted to just complain about your lunch on Twitter. But your best bet is to find an ally on the inside. Alex went to his English teacher, Mrs. Fries, who helped him set a realistic goal—the salad bar.

 Do your research. 

Every state has different school lunch laws, which govern the portion size of specific food groups.Finding your state’s guidelines online can make the entire process easier.

Expect new challenges. 

After getting approval for the salad bar, Alex faced another roadblock: A certain number of kids needed to buy salads each day to keep it. So Alex used flyers to spark student interest—and it worked!

 Ask for suggestions. 

Talking to classmates helped Alex stock the salad bar with ingredients that would make it a success. (For example, they told him to add fresh fruit, like mango.)

More Crusaders!


The junior won a grant to create a “Wellness Corner” at her Philadelphia high school, which offers healthy breakfast options like fruit and yogurt.

Read more about why Jennica wakes up early every morning to make sure her classmates have better breakfasts.


To prove that healthy food can taste good, students came up with a delish dish to be featured in school cafeterias across Chicago!

More details about the Healthy School Campaign's "Cooking Up A Change" competition here!


Shocked by the trash their school generated, these Oklahoma City students started a recycling initiative in their cafeteria.

Click here to learn more about ASTEC Charter's inspiring efforts.


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