We know that it is important that students feel a sense of belonging in school, but additional research is needed to better understand the influences on belonging, especially for junior high and middle school students. Junior high lunchtime is an ideal space to study as a potential influence on belonging because it is a central part of the secondary school experience and it is a social space for students. The purpose of this study is to connect lunchtime experiences to school belonging by showing that how students experience lunchtime and how this affects their overall sense of belonging in school.Descriptive statistical methods such as SPSS Two-Step Cluster Analysis as well as predictive statistics such as logistical regression are used to evaluate data collected during a schoolwide survey conducted in spring 2014 at a junior high (grades 7-8) located in the intermountain region of the United States. The survey provided responses from 832 students across the junior high. Results indicate that loving lunch significantly positively affects school belonging and that students naturally group into different profiles based on their lunchtime preferences. The results also indicate that these lunchtime activity preference profiles significantly affect belonging. Three recommendations are made based on the findings of this study. (a) Offer a variety of lunchtime activity options for students to choose from aimed at making lunch a more positive experience for all students. (b) Create more structured activities for students to participate in during lunch for those who may have anxiety about what to do during lunch. (c) Involve students in making lunch more enjoyable for themselves and others through a school-wide initiative to improve lunchtime experiences for all students.While this study confirms the suspected connection between lunchtime experiences and school belonging, further research is necessary to better understand how lunchtime is experienced by students and how lunchtime can be used as a space for fostering belonging in junior highs.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Teacher Education



Date Submitted


Document Type





belonging, school lunch, lunchtime, junior high, middle school