BS&S Revisits High School Cafeteria for Food Bank

Like a bad flashback to the 1970s, Butler, Shine & Stern takes us to the school cafeteria—for a good cause.

The spots don’t hawk warmed-over spaghetti, week-old apple cobbler, sloppy joes or tater tots. Rather, they ask people to remember that many students rely on school lunch programs and often go hungry in the summer.

Instead of somber voiceovers about how students don’t get proper meals at home, the pro-bono campaign goes right for the gag reflex. Creatives asked the agency’s staffers to recall their worst lunch experiences and designed the spots from those memories. The ads are breaking now in the Bay Area.

In the first spot, two teens in bad ’70s outfits sit eating their lunch off trays. When they look up and smile at each other, the girl reveals mounds of spinach wedged between her braces. A voiceover says, “School lunch. You may not miss it, but every summer there are kids that do.” Viewers are asked to support the San Francisco Food Bank, sponsored by the Food Banks of Northern California, and visit

BS&S “wanted to keep the message kind of upbeat,” said partner and creative director John Butler. “We didn’t want the spots to be too heavy. We wanted people to remember when they were in school—and how important a good lunch was. This reminds them of what it was like to be in school.”

“Their insight always was that not everyone can connect with being hungry, but everyone can remember the high school cafeteria,” said Kim Wade, education and advocacy director for the Food Banks of Northern California. “Hopefully, this will get people to donate or help local agencies.”

An even grosser spot shows a young boy digging through a trash can in the cafeteria, looking for his retainer. He eventually finds it, but it’s coated with a gooey substance.

Another spot shows a girl whose tray flips over in front of a cafeteria full of students, who applaud raucously.

The copywriter on the work was Nicole Michels; the art director was Jerry Underwood.

Spending was not disclosed. BS&S, based in Sausalito, Calif., has an estimated $40 million in billings.